“Seeing the Little Rock Nine face down the angry mob fascinated me, and inspired an emotional bond that has lasted a lifetime.”
–From President Clinton’s foreword to A Mighty Long Way, by Carlotta Walls LaNier, 2009
In 1954, the United States Supreme Court declared that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. In 1957, nine African-American teens attempted to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Governor Orval Faubus ordered the National Guard to block their entry. President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent the U.S. Army’s 101stAirborne Division to Little Rock, and on September 25th, they escorted the Little Rock Nine into the school through the angry mob that had gathered outside. Then 11-year-old Bill Clinton followed the events from his home in Hot Springs and was inspired by their bravery.
In 1999, President Clinton presented the Congressional Gold Medal to each of the Little Rock Nine on behalf of the U.S. Congress in a special ceremony at the White House. The Nine collectively donated one of these medals for exhibit at the Clinton Presidential Library. The medal is displayed in this area of the permanent exhibit, accompanied by a narrative of the crisis, President Eisenhower’s televised address on Central High, and video of the White House ceremony in which the Nine were awarded the medal.
This online exhibit revisits the history of the 1957 Central High crisis through select quotes from President Clinton’s remarks at the 40th Anniversary Commemoration, an examination of the speechwriting process required to craft these remarks, documents, and images from the archives at the Clinton Library. The exhibit also provides links to additional historical materials maintained by other institutions.
Highlighted Object from the Exhibit: Congressional Gold Medal given to one of the Little Rock Nine in 1999.