In the fall of 1957, when students were returning to the all-white Little Rock Central High School, nine new African American faces were to be among them. But Gov. Orval Faubus, in a direct challenge to the federal desegregation law, called in the state National Guard to block the way. Gov. Faubus was ordered to back down, but when the Little Rock Nine arrived on campus, more than 1,000 angry white protesters flocked to the scene. President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded resolutely by sending in federal troops for backup. On September 25, the troops escorted the Little Rock Nine to class and then remained on guard through the year.
Photographs of the clash between Gov. Faubus and the Little Rock Nine placed Little Rock Central High School at the center of the nation’s ongoing struggle to integrate public educational facilities. Even after the Little Rock Nine were admitted to the school, Gov. Faubus continued to advocate for segregation, but the nine students became symbols of courage and optimism.
Today, you can learn more about the Little Rock Nine across the street at the visitor center and museum, which offers ranger-led tours of the still-functioning school. It is the only operating high school located within the boundaries of a National Historic Site.