Today in labor history: Eisenhower orders troops to integrate Little Rock schools

On September 24 in 1957 President Dwight Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock Arkansas to enforce the integration of the city’s schools.

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.”

Several months earlier following orders of then Governor Orval Faubus, the state’s national guard blocked the entrance of the “Little Rock Nine” to the city’s Central High school. The “Little Rock Nine” were nine black students chosen to integrate city schools.

Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas national guard removing it from Faubus’s control and ordered the 101 Airborne Division of the U.S. Army to protect the students.

The “Little Rock Nine” were subjected to verbal and physical abuse throughout the school year. One student, Melba Pattillo, had acid thrown in her eyes. Pattillo also suffered burns when trapped in a woman’s bathroom stall where classmates attempted to burn her alive.

Photo: 101st Airborne at Little Rock Central High. Wikipedia



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