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Creative Writing Meets History: The Little Rock Nine at The Rock

May 2019

(RRES) - This past spring, a fourth-grade Rocky Ridge Elementary School student proposed making a video to discuss the Little Rock Nine and extend it to our school.  This involved creative writing, producing and editing - all thanks to the leadership of Assistant Principal Mrs. Aqila Malpass.

"I am so proud of these students and Mrs. Malpass for continuing to help us grow, reflect, and learn, as we were in the final days of the school year," Principal Dr. Dilhani Uswatte said.

An excerpt from the National Museum of African American History and Culture gives context to the Little Rock Nine:

In 1954 the United States Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were illegal. The case, Brown v. The Board of Education, has become iconic for Americans because it marked the formal beginning of the end of segregation.

But the gears of change grind slowly. It wasn't until September 1957 when nine teens would become symbols, much like the landmark decision we know as Brown v. The Board of Education, of all that was in store for our nation in the years to come.

The "Little Rock Nine," as the nine teens came to be known, were to be the first African American students to enter Little Rock's Central High School. Three years earlier, following the Supreme Court ruling, the Little Rock school board pledged to voluntarily desegregate its schools. This idea was explosive for the community and, like much of the South, it was fraught with anger and bitterness.

On September 2, 1957 the night prior to what was to be the teens' first day in Central High classrooms, Arkansas governor Orval Faubus ordered the state's National Guard to block their entrance. Faubus said it was for the safety of the nine students.

On September 4, just 24 hours after a federal judge ordered the Little Rock Nine to begin attending Central High immediately, a belligerent mob, along with the National Guard, again prevented the teens from entering the school.

Sixteen days later a federal judge ordered the National Guard removed. Once again on September 23, the Little Rock Nine attempted to enter the school. Though escorted by Little Rock police into a side door, another angry crowd gathered and tried to rush into Central High. Fearing for the lives of the nine students, school officials sent the teens home. They did, however, manage to attend classes for about three hours.

Finally, 52 years ago today, on September 25, 1957, following a plea from Little Rock's mayor, Woodrow Mann, President Dwight Eisenhower federalized the National Guard and sent U.S. Army troops to the scene. Personally guarded by soldiers from the National Guard soldiers and the Army's 101st Airborne, the Little Rock Nine began regular class attendance at Central High.