On the 4th September 1957 a group of nine black schoolchildren were prevented from entering the previously segregated Little Rock Central High School by the Arkansas National Guard acting on the orders of Governor Orval Faubus. The Little Rock Crisis gained national attention, and was only resolved when President Eisenhower intervened and sent troops from the 101st Airborne Division to protect the nine students.

The desegregation of American schools began after the United States Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to segregate public schools on the grounds of race in the historic ruling on Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas in 1954. Little Rock School District declared its intention to begin integrating Little Rock Central at the start of the 1957 school year under the terms of the Blossom Plan, drawn up by school superintendent Virgil Blossom. However, Governor Faubus claimed that there was danger of “tumult, riot and breach of peace and the doing of violence to persons and property” if the black students who had enrolled were allowed into the school. Consequently he ordered the National Guard to prevent them from entering, effectively overruling the Supreme Court.

Almost three weeks later, on September 23, President Eisenhower issued proclamation 3204 that ordered the National Guard to stand down. However, the order was ignored and so Eisenhower removed control of the National Guard from the state and placed it in the hands of the federal government. The 101st Airborne Division were sent to Little Rock the next day, and on the 25th September the nine students were finally able to enter the school for good.

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