the power of nine

the power of nine


In 1957, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that segregated schools were unconstitutional, nine students seeking an equal education in the racially divided South would overcome barriers and inspire students for generations to come.


After the historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People began registering exceptional black students in previously all-white school systems to begin the gradual process of desegregation. In the fall of 1957, nine students – Melba Pattillo Beals, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas and Terrence Roberts – were set to begin classes at Little Rock Central High School.

When segregationist groups learned that African American students were about to integrate the exclusively white school system, they called on then-Governor Orval Faubus to take action. On Sept. 4, 1957, Faubus deployed the National Guard to keep the black students from entering. The students were not allowed to enter the school until President Dwight D. Eisenhower intervened and ordered the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army to escort them. For the remainder of the year, each student was assigned their own escort to ensure their safety.


Although free from actual physical danger, the students had to endure verbal taunts and threats.

Those nine students would later become journalists, psychologists and authors. At the time, they had no idea that their actions would make them international heroes, as well as land them in American history books to inspire the students of today. – adam jones

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