Today in labor history: Eisenhower enforces racial integration in Little Rock

On this day in 1957, Arkansas governor Orval Faubus called the National Guard in order to prevent schools in Little Rock from integrating, despite the fact that the Supreme Court had ordered the desegregation of public schools three years prior.

In response, President Dwight D. Eisenhower opted to send U.S. army troops to the city in order to protect African-American children as they entered the schools amidst angry, hateful crowds.

Delivering a television speech from the Oval Office, Eisenhower explained his actions to the country: “Speaking from the house of Lincoln, of Jackson, and of Wilson,” he said, “my words better convey both the sadness I feel in the action I was compelled today to take, and the firmness with which I intend to pursue this course until the orders of the federal court in Little Rock can be executed without unlawful interference.”

The next morning, without further disruption, nine African American students attended classes at Little Rock’s Central High.