Class, Gender, and the
Politics of Resistance
We are now an occupied territory. Evidence of the naked
force of the federal government is here apparent in these
unsheathed bayonets in the backs of school girls.
I feel like a damned fool—protecting 2,000 white high school
students from nine colored students.
—Unnamed Arkansas National Guardsman2
In August 1957, as the city of Little Rock prepared to desegregate its schools by admitting a few African American students to previously allwhite Central High School, its citizens became increasingly anxious. Fearful that desegregation would involve violence and unwilling to have her daughter attend school with black students, Carol Thomason called Little Rock School Superintendent Virgil Blossom to request that her daughter Louise be allowed to transfer. He refused her request. Thomason, described by another segregationist as “a sweet little thing but a very stern person in the things she believes,” called him back repeatedly. He did not return her calls.3
His silence typified the assumptions and strategies of Little Rock's leaders when they contended with segregationist complaints and pressures. The moderates believed that they could defuse the situation by stonewalling their opponents and avoiding public comment on race and the schools. Moreover, the middle-class leaders held the working-class segregationists