Remembering the Little Rock Nine

I shall forever remember my parents’ reaction of fear, and jubilation on that day in 1957 when news broadcasts informed the American public that nine African American students were prevented from entering racially segregated Central High School in Little Rock by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus.  President Eisenhower deployed the National Guard to escort those courageous students to class in the landmark desegregation of Central High School. These audacious   individuals became known as the Little Rock Nine and their journey toward educational justice has been judiciously chronicled in America’s history books.

Carlotta Walls LaNier was a guest of honor at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago in 2009. “In 1957, at age 14, she was the youngest Little Rock Nine member to integrate Central High School.”  I was so excited to receive a signed copy of her book, A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock and I will use it to share her story with my children, grandchildren as well as the teens that I serve.  “This act of courage and defiance by teens, who were not afraid to take a stand, became the catalyst for change in the American educational system.  By ushering in a new order, Carlotta and her fellow warriors became ‘foot soldiers’ for freedom.”

A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School by Carlotta Walls LaNier

When 14-year-old Carlotta Walls walked up to Little Rock Central High School on September 25, 1957, she and eight other black students only wanted to make it to class. But the journey of the “Little Rock Nine” would lead the nation on an even longer and much more turbulent path, one that would challenge prevailing attitudes, break down barriers, and forever change America. Descended from a line of proud black landowners and businessmen, Carlotta was raised to believe that education was the key to success. After Brown v. Board of Education, the teenager volunteered to be among the first black students–she was the youngest–to integrate nearby Central High School. But getting through the door was only the first of many trials.

Remember Little Rock: the Time, the People, the Stories by Paul Robert Walker

Just over 50 years ago, in Little Rock Arkansas, nine brave black students stood up for their rights and made history. The integration of Central High School in Little Rock changed the course of education in America forever, and became one of the pivotal points in the Civil Rights Movement. Paul Robert Walker uses eyewitness accounts and on-the-scene news photography to take a fresh look at a time of momentous consequence in U.S. history. Here, we get the story from all sides: the students directly involved; their fellow students, black and white; parents on both sides; military, police, and government officials.

Daisy Bates, civil rights crusader by Amy Polakow.

Bates was the NAACP coordinator who helped the Little Rock Nine become the first African American students to attend newly integrated Central High School in Arkansas. This vividly detailed biography shows how her personal experience growing up in the rural South stirred early anger yet instilled a stubborn pride that gave her the courage to fight hatred and become one of the most pivotal figures in twentieth-century American history. Blending Bates’ story with a rich, vivid retelling of the anti-segregation struggle and the emotional and physical toll it took on Bates, the Nine, and many others who changed society, Polakow traces how the civil rights struggles gained momentum, and the tension builds to a nail-biting climax. Follow-up descriptions of what became of those nine students are an inspiring testimony to the strength of the human spirit in the face of ignorance and hatred. (Roger Leslie 2003 Booklist)

The Little Rock Nine: The Struggle for Integration by Stephanie Fitzgerald.

In the fall of 1957, nine students in Little Rock, Arkansas, volunteered to integrate the city’s all-white Central High School. This group, known as the Little Rock Nine, soon found themselves in the center of a firestorm. Many people did not want black students to attend the school, and they fought hard to stop them. But the students faced the challenge with grace, dignity, and courage. They pioneered the way for equality in schools and demonstrated the power of freedom for all Americans.