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Little Rock School Crisis, 1957

Little Rock School Desegregation

Three years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown v. Board of Education that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal, nine African American students—Minnijean Brown, Terrance Roberts, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Jefferson Thomas, and Carlotta Walls—attempted to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The students, known as the Little Rock Nine, were recruited by Daisy Bates, president of the Arkansas branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, Martin Luther King wrote President Dwight D. Eisenhower requesting a swift resolution allowing the students to attend school.

Bates, Daisy

Daisy Lee Gaston Bates, a civil rights advocate, newspaper publisher, and president of the Arkansas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), advised the nine students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. Martin Luther King offered encouragement to Bates during this period, telling her in a letter that she was “a woman whom everyone KNOWS has been, and still is in the thick of the battle from the very beginning, never faltering, never tiring” (Papers 4:446).

Eisenhower, Dwight David

As the 34th president of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower took office one year before the Supreme Court’s historic 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education and served during the rise of the modern civil rights movement. Unenthusiastic about the Court’s decision, Eisenhower nonetheless used military force to counter segregationists during the Little Rock school desegregation crisis of 1957. Martin Luther King later corresponded with Eisenhower regarding school desegregation.

Address at the Thirty-fourth Annual Convention of the National Bar Association

In this typescript of an address to the oldest and largest federation of African American lawyers, King reemphasizes the importance of nonviolence and denounces the “hate groups arising in our midst” that advocate “a doctrine of black supremacy.” He reminds his audience that “we must not try to leap from a position of disadvantage to one of advantage, thus subverting justice.”1 King’s remarks may have been prompted by the July 1959 television broadcast of “The Hate That Hate Produced,” which dr

Address to the House of Representatives of the First Legislature, State of Hawaii, on 17 September 1959

After attending the National Baptist Convention in San Francisco and speaking in Los Angeles, King flew to Hawaii for several engagements and a brief vacation.1 Arriving just three weeks after Hawaii became the fiftieth state, he addresses the legislature at the state capitol, the Iolani Palace.2 King thanks the Hawaiians for offer-ing the nation “a noble example” of progress “in the area of racial harmony and racial justice.”

To Joseph Tusiani

On 2 August Italian-born poet Joseph Tusiani requested that King respond to a set of questions for an article to be published in the Italian-language magazine Nigrizia.1 In this reply, King suggests that the Little Rock school integration conflict may have been "a blessing in disguise" because it forced people to recognize that the desegregation problem "had to be met forthrightly." He also blames the federal government, "especially the president," for failing to take a "strong, moral stand" a

Interview by Martin Agronsky for "Look Here"

After Sunday services at Dexter on 27 October, seventy-five church members assembled in the auditorium to watch Agronsky, host of the weekly NBC television program “Look Here,” interview their pastor.1 Though broadcast nationally, viewers in more than thirty-five counties of Alabama did not see the program after vandals sabotaged the transmission by wrapping a chain around the WSFA-TV transmitter just prior to air time.2

To Glenn E. Smiley

Following a September fact-finding visit to Little Rock, Smiley recommended to FOR's executive committee that he and King organize a workshop on nonviolence to diffuse racial tensions in that city.1 In this letter King expresses his misgivings about going to Little Rock, fearing that local leaders might presume he was “overlooking their ability to handle the situation."

Rev. Glenn Smiley, Field Secretary
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Nyack, New York


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