The Little Rock Nine

Student Study Group

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Elmer J. Whiting, III, © Gertrude Samuels. Object number 2011.17.201.

Ernest Green on his graduation day

Ernest Green on his graduation day 

Did you know? Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. attended graduation ceremonies at Central High School in May 1958 to see Ernest Green, the only senior among the Little Rock Nine, receive his diploma.


After the Little Rock Nine’s year at Central High School, many schools follow in their footsteps. In 1960 desegregation began in Louisiana; at first, it was boycotted in New Orleans but the protesting eventually ceased. Places such as Las Vegas, Nevada, and Boston, Massachusetts, also started desegregating and fighting for equal education.
     The Little Rock Nine was one of the first groups that integrated into an all-white high school. They accomplished their goals of surviving a year at Central High School and starting a fight for desegregation. Ernest Green managed to graduate despite the constant threats and attacks from white students and their parents. Two other students from the Little Rock Nine also graduated in later years. By the 1970s, virtually all schools were fully desegregated. The Little Rock Nine started a fight for equal education among Blacks and Whites and achieved their goal. For this accomplishment, they were awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in 1998 by President Bill Clinton. Their legacy is long-lasting, and their impact on diversity in schools is still seen today.”  

Little Rock Nine Aftermath

Several of the Little Rock Nine went on to distinguished careers.

Green served as assistant secretary of the federal Department of Labor under President Jimmy Carter. Brown worked as deputy assistant secretary for workforce diversity in the Department of the Interior under President Bill Clinton. Patillo worked as a reporter for NBC.

The group has been widely recognized for its significant role in the civil rights movement. In 1999, President Clinton awarded each member of the group the Congressional Gold Medal. The nine also received personal invitations to attend the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009.

Jefferson Thomas became the first of the Little Rock Nine to die when he succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 67 on September 5, 2010. After graduating from Central High, Thomas served in the Army in Vietnam, earned a business degree, and worked as an accountant for private companies and the Pentagon.”


Little Rock Nine Memorial, north entrance of the Arkansas State Capitol building in the background. Little Rock Arkansas.

Little Rock Nine, life-size sculptures. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images) 2021 – All rights reserved 





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