Magazine article New York Times Upfront

1957 the Integration of Central High: Fifty Years Ago This Fall, President Eisenhower Sent Federal Troops into Arkansas to Enforce the Desegregation of Little Rock's Central High School

Magazine article New York Times Upfront

1957 the Integration of Central High: Fifty Years Ago This Fall, President Eisenhower Sent Federal Troops into Arkansas to Enforce the Desegregation of Little Rock's Central High School

Article excerpt

LESSON PLAN 4

CRITICAL THINKING

The article and the timeline demonstrate how America's treatment of blacks and other minorities has changed in the Last century and a half.

* Direct attention to the remark of Ernest Green on pages 10-11: "They [white students] hear bad things about us from their parents." What does this say about the power that ideas and culture have to endure through generations?

Next, address the U.S. Supreme Court's reversal of the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling.

Why would the Court rule on "separate but equal" in two completely different ways?

* Remind students that values and views evolve over time. Racial segregation, once seen as perfectly acceptable by much of America, eventually faced intense opposition from many quarters as society's values changed.

* Discuss Hazel Bryan Massery's shift in values. What factors might have influenced her change in perspective over the years?

WRITING PROMPT

Ask students to write a five-paragraph essay or brief fetter to white and black Central High students in 1957, explaining how race relations have changed--citing both progress and continuing problems today.

FAST FACT

* Orval Faubus ran for governor again in 1970, 1974, and 1986, Losing in the Arkansas Democratic primaries each time--the last time to Bill Clinton.

WEB WATCH

www.lrsd.org/centralhigh50th /LR9.htm

The Little Rock School District provides brief biographies of the Little Rock Nine.

It was "the most severe test of the Constitution since the Civil War," according to historian Taylor Branch. Fifty years ago, in September 1957, nine black students tried to enter all-white Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, after a federal court ordered the school district to integrate. Governor Orval E. Faubus, who accused Washington of "cramming integration down our throats," ordered the National Guard to surround the school and block the students from going inside.

The Little Rock crisis, one of the key events of the civil rights era, lasted three weeks, ending only after President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent in federal troops to ensure that the black students made it to school.

Seeds of the showdown had been sown three years earlier, in 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. In this landmark case, the Justices unanimously ruled that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment, which guarantees Americans equal protection under the law (see timeline, next page). The Brown ruling overturned the "separate but equal" principle established in 1896 by the Court in Plessy v. Ferguson.

Most Southern states resisted the Brown ruling outright or took only token steps to comply. In Little Rock, the school board adopted a timetable for gradual desegregation, beginning in the fall of 1957 at Central High, and extending to the lower grades during the next six years.

In Washington, Southern members of Congress dug in their heels against integration. In March 1956, 18 Senators and 81 Congressmen signed the Southern Manifesto denouncing Brown and urging Southern states to continue to fight it.

'ARE YOU SCARED?'

With the fall of 1957 approaching, segregationists in Little Rock predicted that violence would erupt if integration ook place. But a federal court ordered

the school district to proceed. On September 4, nine black students selected by the school board from a pool of more than 100 candidates tried to go to class at Central High for the first time. They were confronted by a mob of white hecklers and turned away by some of the hundreds of Arkansas National Guard troops sent there by Governor Faubus.

"Are you scared?" one of the nine students, 15-year-old Terence Roberts, was asked by a reporter that day. …

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