Sixty years ago, on September 25, 1957, nine black students entered a previously all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, marking the end of de jure school segregation after the United States Supreme Court struck down Plessy v. Ferguson and declared “separate but equal” unconstitutional.
The nine students faced down white protesters and the Arkansas National Guard who were ordered by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus to block the students from entering Central High School. President Eisenhower called upon the federal troops to safely escort the students into the school. Today, the “Little Rock Nine,” are considered a major part of civil rights history in the United States.
Eight of the Little Rock Nine met with former President Bill Clinton in Arkansas on Monday to commemorate the day and reflect on the hate they received for simply taking part in the desegregation of education.
Although it has been 60 years since the Little Rock Nine entered Central High School, civil rights are still under attack. Police brutality against and the extra-judicial killings of black people continues to go largely unpunished in the United States. Demonstrators assembled in St. Louis last week after a white police officer was acquitted for the murder of Lamar Smith, an unarmed man who was fatally shot after a car chase in 2011. Lamar Smith is among a long list of black people indiscriminately killed by white people without any kind of criminal consequences.
Just last month, neo-nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan marched openly in Charlottesville, Virginia dispelling racist sentiments and violence. Thousands of armed white supremacists began violently clashing with counter-protesters hours before the rally was scheduled to begin. By the middle of the day, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe was forced to declare a state of emergency and call in the national guard, saying “Please go home and never come back. Take your hatred, and take your bigotry.” The rally turned deadly when a 20 year old member of the so-called alt-right, James Alex Fields Jr, intentionally drove his car into a group of peaceful counter protesters, injuring 19 people and murdering 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
On September 30, people across the country will participate in the March for Black Women to elevate the voices of Black women and denounce the abuse Black women face from society and the state, from sexual violence to mass incarceration to the systematic failures to investigate missing black girls.
Media Resources: Washington Post 9/16/17; Feminist Newswire 8/14/17; Vice News 9/25/17; NPR 9/25/17; CBS 9/25/17; March for Racial Justice