The desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas exactly sixty-four years ago this weekend remains a flashpoint in American history, the history of the Civil Rights Movement, and the history of education in the United States. Following the Brown v. Board decision of 1954 which rendered racial segregation of schools unconstitutional, the NAACP devised a plan to desegregate Central High School as a test case within the new legal environment created by the Brown decision. A group of nine Black students were selected to integrate the school and, upon their arrival, faced immense violent opposition from white mobs and armed forces deployed by Arkansas’ governor. Historian Taylor Branch described the event as “the most severe test of the Constitution since the Civil War” and the level of conflict it engendered seems to lend further credence to this comparison.
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