Uncivil Disobedience: The Politics
of Race and Resistance at Central
High School, 1957–1958
The worst aspect of the situation was the hour-by-hour and
day-by-day tension. What bomb threat would prove to be
real? Which one of the nine black students would get a
switch-blade in the gut? Or acid in the face?
—J. O. Powell, Vice Principal for Boys,
Central High School1
There wasn't much trouble inside the school.
—R. A. Lile, Little Rock School Board2
In mid-December 1957, Minnijean Brown cracked under the pressure of the daily harassment she was experiencing at Central High School. In the cafeteria, which was often the site of minor provocations engineered by a cabal of racist white students, she had her way blocked by a chair. Believing that the incident had been intentionally provocative, Minnijean took her tray and dumped its contents, including a bowl of chili, on two boys sitting in the vicinity. Confused, she missed the student who had deliberately moved the chair to block her path. She “had been provoked previously in the same location” and had warned those responsible that “they might get something on them.” The two boys she “souped,” who had not been involved in racial incidents at school, sympathized with her. One of them said that he “knew she'd been through a lot of strain recently and could be expected to pop off.” School officials suspended her until early January.3