The Little Rock Nine

           The Little Rock Nine

They Only Wanted To Go To School…


Thelma Mothershed, Elizabeth Eckford, Melba Pattillo,

Jefferson Thomas, Ernest Green, Minnijean Brown,

Carlotta Walls, Terrence Roberts, Gloria Ray. 


By Dale Ricardo Shields


Little Rock, Arkansas

September 4, 1957

When Dorothy Counts was spat on by the mob as she was trying to go to school, that was the day I decided I was coming home (from Baldwin’s self-imposed in Europe). And I came home, you know, to see, you know, to do whatever I could do. And I went south, and I began to deal with the reality, which had always been incipient in me but never been expressed or objectified. I fell in love with those people. And I was very happy to be in the South, even though it was very frightening. Something in me —- something in me recognized it. Something in me had come home.” – James Baldwin (Karen Thorsen’s documentary “The Price of the Ticket)


“At 15 years of age, on 4 September 1957, Dorothy Counts was one of the four Black students enrolled at various all-white schools in the district; She was at Harry Harding High School, Charlotte, North Carolina.  Three students were enrolled at other schools, including Central High School. The harassment started when the wife of John Z. Warlick, the leader of the White Citizens Council, urged the boys to “keep her out” and at the same time, implored the girls to spit on her, saying, “spit on her, girls, spit on her.”Dorothy walked by without reacting, but told the press that many people threw rocks at her—most of which landed in front of her feet—and that many spat on her back.                                                          Photographer Douglas Martin won the 1957 World Press Photo of the Year with an image of Counts being mocked by a crowd on her first day of school. More abuse followed that day. She had trash thrown at her while eating her dinner and the teachers ignored her. The following day, she befriended two White girls, but they soon drew back because of harassment from other classmates.                           Her family received threatening phone calls and after four days of extensive harassment—which included a smashed car and having her locker ransacked, her father decided to take his daughter out of the school.”


In the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision, issued May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation of America’s public schools was unconstitutional.


The Little Rock Nine were a group of nine African American students that volunteered to desegregate the Little Rock county school system by attending the all-White Little Rock Central High School.

Their attendance at the school was a test of Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional. On September 4, 1957, the first day of classes at Central High, Governor Orval Faubus called in the Arkansas National Guard to block the Black students’ entry into the high school. Later that month, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent in federal troops to escort the Little Rock Nine into the school.


 Federal “battle” troops stand with rifles ready to quell “mob rule” in Little Rock resulting from the integration crisis at Central High School. These soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division took up their positions around the school again this morning, with renewed vigor after being relieved for the night by the Federalized Arkansas National Guard. The nine Negro students who entered the school under troop protection yesterday were again given portal-to-portal protection to school today.

 10/9/1957-Little Rock, AR: Nine Negro students attending Central High School are shown leaving the school under the protection of Federalized Arkansas National Guardsmen. The students are now in their third week of integrated classes while the integration dispute continues to make headlines. 

Getty Images)

“National Guard denied Black students from September 4th. Access to the school Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division advance into Little Rock to ensure the schooling of the Black students.”