President Bill Clinton presented the nation’s highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal, to the members of the Little Rock Nine.
Little Rock Nine
My Journey to Justice at
Little Rock Central High School
A MIGHTY LONG WAY
The Little Rock Nine (from left to right): Thelma Mothershed (b. 1940), Elizabeth Eckford (b. 1941), Gloria Ray (b. 1942), Jefferson
Thomas (b. 1942), Melba Pattillo (b. 1941), Ernest Green (b. 1941), Carlotta Walls, (b. 1942), Minnijean Brown (b. 1941), Terrence
Roberts (b. 1941) They are shown with their adviser, Daisy Gaston Bates, a newspaper publisher and president of the Arkansas State
Conference the NAACP.
The "Little Rock Nine"
They were just teenagers who wanted to attend the best high school Little Rock, Arkansas, had to offer. But when Minnijean Brown,
Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Pattillo, Gloria Ray, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas, and Carlotta Walls
walked up the steps of Central High School on Sept. 25, 1957, they changed American education for generations to come.
would not come easily, though. Segregationists, rallied by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, fought integration at the high school every
step of the way. Faubus even ordered the Arkansas National Guard to block the students’ entrance to the school on their first attempt.
Ultimately, President Dwight D. Eisenhower intervened to assure that the integration order issued three years earlier by the U.S.
Supreme Court in its Brown vs. the Board of Education decision was carried out. Eisenhower sent the U.S. military to escort the students—who
became known around the world as the Little Rock Nine—up the front steps of the high school. It was the first time in history a U.S.
President sent the military to enforce a Supreme Court order.
It was a turbulent first year for the Little Rock Nine. They endured
verbal and physical attacks and were forbidden to participate in extracurricular activities at the school. But Ernest Green, the only
senior in the group, became the high school’s first black graduate in 1958. Refusing to give up his fight, Governor Faubus shut down
all of Little Rock’s high schools the next year for the entire school year to avoid further integration. When schools reopened for
the 1959-60 school year, only two of the original nine students—Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls—returned. Others attended and
eventually graduated from high schools in other states or received their diplomas from Central via the mail after taking correspondence
courses when the schools closed. Both Carlotta and Jefferson graduated from Central in 1960.