America’s history of racial discrimination has been quite ugly. However, when the year 1954 witnessed an end to segregation in schools, it brought about a wave of change the nation had long been desperate for.
Who knew that only three years later, nine teenagers would appear to be symbols of this change? The nine teenagers in question here were the first African Americans to get into Little Rock’s Central High School. However, the school’s decision to desegregate was not received well. As a result, only a day before what was supposed to be the teens’ first day at school, the governor of Arkansas gave ordered to block their entrance.
They were: Melba Pattillo, Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Minnijean Brown, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls, Jefferson Thomas, Gloria Ray, and Thelma Mothershed.
Two days later, on September 4, another mob tried to stop the teens from getting inside the school. After almost two weeks, when a federal judge ordered to remove the National Guard, the Little Rock Nine again tried entering the school on September 23.
Finally, when the teens managed to enter inside, they were again threatened by an angry mob of people and fearing for the lives of these teenagers; the school authority decided to send them home. Fortunately, they were able to attend three hours’ worth of classes.
Finally, on September 25, 1957, Little Rock’s mayor pleaded to send the National Guard away, and the President agreed and decided to send army troops to the scene. After receiving security of this caliber, the Little Rock Nine were finally able to attend classes regularly. Unfortunately, their bad days weren’t entirely over yet.
Despite a smooth entrance, their day-to-day routine at school was filled with threats and harassment from the white students. Somehow, one of the nine, Ernest Green, managed to graduate from central high in 1958 and made the day historical for everyone in his community.
The courage they mustered every day and the harassment they faced every day was finally starting to pay off. Imagine being white and supporting a bunch of black students in that day and age. There’s a reason African Americans hold a special place in entire American history. There’s a reason these events existed. They weren’t merely supposed to be added into books or revisited every once in a while.
They are meant to take lessons from, and they are intended to be used to stir our souls and minds. Today, an average African American leads a much better life, but it doesn’t mean that their ordeals have been put to rest.
Discrimination still exists and demands our attention, if nothing else. Moreover, understanding African American history is the only way to understand American history as a whole.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum is a living artifact of African American history that holds a collection of several objects pertaining to the subject. It showcases the role African Americans have played in the emergence of contemporary America.
All in all, the Little Rock Nine were not only nine teenagers who attended a regular high school but were also a huge part of the African American history that the world looks up to.