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These Horrifying Pictures Show Just How Brave The Little Rock Nine Were

"I looked into the face of an old woman and it seemed a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat on me." —Elizabeth Eckford, 1957

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Following the landmark 1954 ruling of Brown v. Board of Education, the United States moved in the direction of desegregating schools that kept minorities in separate and poorly funded learning environments. While the ruling showed promise for the future of the US's educational system, implementing desegregation would not come easy for towns that had existed for decades under sharp racial divisions.

One such place was Little Rock, Arkansas, which in 1957 white locals attacked a group of black students, known as the Little Rock Nine, planned to attend Little Rock Central High School. On Sept. 4, 1957, the first day of classes, Gov. Orval Faubus called for the National Guard to prevent the students from entering the building. Several weeks later President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent the US Army's 101st Airborne Division to escort the Little Rock Nine safely into the school.

These are are some of the troubling and triumphant images from that month and the years that followed.

Getty Images

Left: Two Little Rock Central High School students wearing Confederate Army attire wait outside of school after participating in a walk out. About 50 students staged a walk out from their classes that day. Right: A group of white protesters stage a rally against school integration.

Anonymous / AP

A US Army paratrooper uses the butt of his rifle to nudge along a man identified as C.E. Blake, who was hit in the head when he tried to take a weapon from a trooper near Central High School.

William P. Straeter / AP

White students block the doors of the school, denying access to six black students attempting to enter. Moments later the black students were shoved down a flight of stairs and onto the sidewalk, where city police broke up the altercation.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Mrs. L.C. Bates, president of the Arkansas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and her husband watch Gov. Orval Faubus on television as he addresses the nation. He attacked the president for sending federal troops into Little Rock, accusing the administration of employing "police state methods." Bates was an adviser to nine black high school students who attempted to enroll in Central High School.

Getty Images

Left: Ernest Green receives his diploma and becomes the first black student to graduate from Central High School. Right: Ernest Green celebrates his graduation with his mother.


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