September 4, 1957, Elizabeth Eckford – one of nine black students attempting to attend Central High School, in Little Rock, Arkansas – is met with jeers and turned back by National Guard troops.
Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, defying a federal order, had the troops stop the black students. With each passing day, the threat of violence escalated, as the students repeatedly attempted to enter the school.
President Dwight Eisenhower commanded the National Guard to enforce the court order authorizing the students’ attendance. On September 23, 1957, when the “Little Rock Nine” again attempted to enter, the National Guard troops had been withdrawn, leaving the students undefended from the mob. Two days later the U.S. Army, dispatched to Little Rock by the president, safeguarded the entry of the black students.
Even after their attendance was secured, those student suffered a “year-long ordeal” marked by mistreatment by white students, says historian Taylor Branch in his book Parting the Waters. (National Park Service)