Central High School National Historic Site is a national emblem of the often violent struggle over school desegregation. The line in the sand was crossed when nine African-American teenagers, "The Little Rock Nine," braved an angry white mob protesting integration in front of Little Rock, Arkansas's Central High School, testing the three-year-old decision of the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education.
Although the federal court ordered Little Rock, Arkansas, to comply, Governor Orval Faubus, on September 4, 1957, called for the Arkansas National Guard to prevent school desegregation. Ten days later in a meeting with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Faubus agreed to use the National Guard to protect the African-American teenagers.
On returning to Little Rock, he dismissed the National Guard troops. Within hours, the jeering, brick-throwing mob had beaten several reporters and smashed many of the school's windows and doors. While the students met their new classmates for the first time inside the school, the violence outside escalated, and the Little Rock police removed the nine students from the school for their safety.
On September 5, 1957, Eisenhower ordered the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock to escort the nine students into the school. The Little Rock Nine finished out the school year under federal protection.
The following school year, Governor Faubus closed all the high schools to deny the African-American students their civil right to access the public the school system. The students were forced to either attend high school out of state, or take correspondence classes.
Despite more violence, the school board ordered that the schools be reopened in the fall of 1959, and four out of the original nine students returned to school, this time protected by the local police.