Mass. honors Little Rock Nine's big impact on history
Recognition for bravery
They faced down screams and insults from a mob of students and parents as they crossed through the front door of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., Governor Deval Patrick recalled for a crowd at Faneuil Hall last night.
By doing so, the Little Rock Nine, a group of African-American students who desegregated the school 50 years ago, affected the Civil Rights Movement, and changed history.
"You made a claim on the American consciousness that I believe the civil rights struggle has always been about," Patrick said, speaking directly to members of the Little Rock Nine, who were honored at a commemorative event.
City, state and local leaders presented the group with resolutions and recognized them for their bravery at an event sponsored by the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School.
Soon after the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education outlawed racially segregated schools, communities across the country struggled to adhere to the new federal law.
Pictures of the Little Rock Nine barred from entering Central High School by Arkansas national guardsmen, deployed by Governor Orval Faubus, became an iconic image of the Civil Rights Movement.
It was not until President Dwight Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne Division to escort the black students into the school that they were allowed inside.
Still, the terror did not end for the teenagers. Some did not finish at Central High because of the harassment of fellow students. Others could not return because Faubus refused to reopen the school for the 1958-1959 school year.
Some members of the Little Rock Nine said yesterday they did not know the affect their actions would have on desegregation efforts across the country. However, they did know that they were doing the right thing.
"It made me realize as an individual how insignificant I am," said Gloria Ray Karlmark, who currently lives in Europe, "that there are things such as principles and values that are worth more than I am."
April Simpson can be reached at email@example.com.