“I’M A NICE PERSON. ONCE THEY GET TO KNOW ME, THEY’LL SEE I’M OK. WE’LL BE FRIENDS.”
You remember sitting on your front porch a few weeks ago when your best friend Rudy said these words to you. Rudy’s going to a new school this year. So it was normal to be thinking about making new friends. But this was not going to be a normal school year.
You’re an African American teenager living in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. For your whole life, Little Rock’s schools have been segregated – the white kids went to one set of schools and the African American kids went to a different set of schools. Everyone knew that the white schools had more classes and activities and better supplies than the African American schools. Like a lot of other American cities, Little Rock didn’t want the two races to mix in its schools, so there was segregation.
A few years ago, in a case called Brown vs. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that states couldn’t have segregated schools anymore. They decided that it went against the U.S. Constitution. So now the Little Rock School Committee has to desegregate its schools. A group of nine African American students, including Rudy, are going to be the first ones to integrate Little Rock’s all-white Central High School. The newspapers are calling these students the Little Rock Nine.
There’s a problem, though.
The governor of Arkansas, and many of the state’s other white residents don’t want segregation in the schools to end. So the governor orders the Arkansas National Guard to block the nine African American students from entering the school. For 17 straight days, that’s what they do. Finally, President Dwight Eisenhower sends in U.S. federal troops to Little Rock to enforce the law and escort the students into Central High School so they could begin classes.
Since then, Rudy’s told you that many of the white students and even some of the white teachers at Central High consistently use abusive language toward the nine African American students. School desegregation has been really hard on these kids.
You’ve seen what’s happened with Rudy and the Little Rock Nine up close. But the rest of the world is going to learn about these events through history books and other artifacts. Investigate the primary sources. What are three big ideas from them that you feel are most essential for someone to understand the story of the Little Rock Nine? Make your case.
Have your students take this challenge and make their case! To begin, send your students to this website with this challenge’s code.
Segregation is the separation of people based on things like race or religion. In a case called Brown vs. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that states couldn’t have segregated schools anymore.