The Little Rock Nine


Today is the 56th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine — the brave high school students who desegregated Arkansas schools in 1957. Though Brown vs. Board of Education mandated that schools be desegregated, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus prevented the students from attending Little Rock Central High School until President Dwight Eisenhower intervened and sent National Guard personnel to enforce desegregation.

Throughout the south, the fight to desegregate schools was fought through court mandates, legal battles and protest. In this Southern Oral History Program interview, James Armstrong recalls filing a suit against Birmingham, Alabama public schools so his children could attend a white elementary school.

“My top lawyer stayed here at the house, had breakfast with my wife and the other lawyers walked down there with us. We got down to the school. The governor had the doors blocked… The first year down there my boys were treated pretty rough because they would hit them behind the head at the water fountain.”

Armstrong’s two sons later went to live with a Quaker family outside Boston so that they could attend better schools without the fear of bullying, and went on to attend Boston College and Tufts University. Armstrong said that it was "a beautiful sight” to see his children be treated as part of the white family, one that he would never forget.

“Everybody, all white folks aren’t low-down and ornery. Some folks love this country. They like the things they see in people as human, not as color.”