Beanery Online Literary Magazine

May 22, 2009

Executive Order 10730: Desegregation of Central High School (1957)






       Since the beginning of time, every social group has had to fight for its freedom.  Regardless of whether the injustices the groups fought against pertained to religion, nationality, gender, or race, they were injustices all the same. African Americans were one of these groups that have had to endure injustices since the beginning of time. Around the 1950’s African Americans decided enough was enough and stood up against oppressive factors in society. This time period in history is referred to as the Civil Rights Era, in which many courageous steps were taken by African Americans in order to achieve equality. The town of Little Rock, Arkansas was just one of the many towns in the United States which served as the setting of many civil rights demonstrations.

     In May of 1955, the Little Rock School Board approved a plan that entailed the gradual desegregation of its public schools. This plan anticipated full operation by 1963, which some felt was too long of a time period. The United States Court at Little Rock over ruled challenges to its long drawn-out plan, because they truly believed a slow gradual change would be smoother than an abrupt change to America’s education system. The plan took its first step in the year of 1957. The plan was for nine African American students to integrate into the all-white populated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas on September 3, 1957. This epic event was met with much controversy and chaos. 

     The day before this event was to take place, Orval Faubus, governor of Arkansas, ordered National Guardsmen to surround the school in an effort to deny entry to the nine African American students. Faubus ordered each race to remain at in its own school; Central High for the whites and Horace Mann for the blacks.  Faubus stated that, “blood would run in the streets” if African American students tried to enter into Central High School (Treanor 81). Faubus later tried to justify his actions by stating that he wanted to prevent violence between the black citizens and the white supremacists. Governor Orval Faubus’ actions raised the issue of state officials defying rulings of the United States’ courts. 

     After three weeks of no resolution, President Dwight D. Eisenhower intervened.  On September 24, 1957, under Executive Order 10730, Eisenhower sent about 1,000 Federal paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock, Arkansas to guarantee the safety of the nine black students upon their entry into Central High School. Eisenhower reasoned that when local and state authorities fail to enforce federal laws, it is then the federal government’s responsibility to enforce them.  Eisenhower backed his actions with his statement,

“…the Supreme Court of the United States has decided that separate public educational facilities for the races are inherently unequal and therefore compulsory school segregation laws are unconstitutional” (Treanor 85). 

The Supreme Court has the responsibility in interpreting the Constitution, therefore having the utmost authority. Local courts and authorities must push aside personal opinions in order to enforce and abide by Supreme Court rulings.

     On September 24, the nine students, consisting of Thelma Mothershed, Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Gloria Ray, Terrance Roberts, Melba Pattillo, Jefferson Thomas, Carlotta Walls, and Ernest Green, integrated into Central High School, which was populated by 2,000 white students, amid the hateful racial comments and irrational behavior of white supremacists. Melba Pattillo Beals, one of the African American children who integrated Central High, stated, “You just realize that survival is day to day and you start to grasp your own spirit, you start to understand the ability to cope no matter what” (Koslow). Although the children were afraid of what lay ahead for them upon enrollment in their new school, they were put to ease under the protection of the Federal Troops and the guidance of their mentor, Daisy Bates. Bates, a civil rights leader, led The Little Rock Nine on their gallant journey. Bates summed it up by saying,

“The integration of Little Rock Central started a movement that spread all over the country.  At the time, New York and Chicago schools were segregated, too.  Now we’ve got black mayors in so many big cities.  And it all started with the desegregation of a school” (Fradin 145). 

Bates described how one very big step in history was the spark for many other great accomplishments later on. Desegregation of one high school broke the ice for many other civil justices to come. 

     Executive Order 10730 took a giant step in the direction of ending civil injustices for African Americans whom resided in the United States.  The desegregation of high schools helped convey the idea of integration by educating the youngest citizens of America on the importance of equality for all.  The aspiration was that they would in turn plant the seeds of unprejudiced views into the next generation.  Freedom is always worth fighting for.


Kathy Kelly, of Voices of Wilderness: On Peace
Moving to the (Laurel Ridge) Mountains


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