April 18, 2011

After Brown vs. Board: A Closer Look at The Little Rock 9

The Supreme Court's 1954 ruling in Brown vs. Board, while a legal victory for the Civil Rights Movement, did not solve the problem of segregation and racism.  According to Amistad Digital Resource, "By the 1956-57 school year, 723 southern school districts had been desegregated, and 300,000 black children were either attending formerly white schools or were part of a 'desegregated'school district. However, in most cases, the desegregation of schools was not accomplished without extreme reactionary resistance." 
Today we are going to examine what happened in Little Rock, Arkansas. 

Our guiding questions are:  How do the choices of individuals and groups shape history?  How did individuals and groups shape the integration of schools in Little Rock, Arkansas? 

You may respond to this question in any way you choose, but you must respond here on our class blog and must include details and facts from the text and video below.  You can write a blog post, in the form of a narrative or a poem, you can record and upload a video, you can post and analyze pictures, you can create a political cartoon, you can post and reflect about a song...  You can work alone or with a partner.  I will allow groups of three but the response must be substantial (triple big mac).  This assignment is due by Monday, 4/25.  On Wednesday, I will be teaching a mini-lesson about citations within your research paper draft; you may work on this assignment or your draft during the workshop time.  Your research paper drafts are due next Friday, April 29th.

Read the secondary source below from Amistad Digital Resource about the aftermath of Brown vs. Bd in Little Rock:

"Less than a week before the 1957 school year began, the Arkansas state court ordered Little Rock to reverse the city's desegregation plan. A federal court overruled the state jurists, but Governor Orval Faubus, a racial moderate who had gained his greatest electoral support from blacks and middle-to-upper-class whites, ordered the state's National Guard to forbid nine black children to enter the Little Rock Central High School. Armed with automatic rifles, the soldiers and a mob of unruly white people pelted and pushed the young students away from the schoolhouse before national television cameras. In late September 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower very reluctantly ordered the state's 10,000 guardsmen to submit to federal authority, and army troops were called to disperse the angry white mobs terrorizing the black students. Little Rock schools were closed during the 1958-59 school year, and black students did not attend the schools until August of 1959.

As the movement for desegregation continued to gain momentum, the measures employed by white supremacists became more violent. The Ku Klux Klan reasserted itself as a powerful secret (and sometimes not so secret) organization, committing a series of murders and bombings of black homes and churches."

Watch the video below of actual footage from the Little Rock integration battle.

If you didn't read Warriors Don't Cry for English, you can read an excerpt here.  You won't regret it.  This book changed my understanding of the Civil Rights Movement.  I didn't really understand it until I learned Melba's story. 

You might also want to think about the story of Minnijean Brown, one of the Little Rock 9.  She famously dumped a bowl of chilli on a white boy, Dent Gitchel, in the cafeteria, resulting in her leaving Little Rock to finish school in New York City.  A few years ago Minnijean and Dent were reunited (you'll never guess where).  You can read the story at NPR.

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