The most notable role that young people played in the Civil Rights Movement from 1960 to 1965 was within the arena of education, although young people (if we include not only children but those through college age) were important throughout the Civil Rights Movement, as this paper explores.
In 1957 Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus ignored rulings against racial segregation and refused to desegregate the school districts in Little Rock. He ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent black students from entering the cityÆs Central High School. U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower responded by sending federal troops to provide safe passage for the students, but many black students were not admitted to public schools in Arkansas until a year later (p. 111).
Worldwide attention was focused on Little Rock in September 1957, when nine black students unsuccessfully attempted to enroll in the cityÆs Central High School. Until that time only white students had attended the school, despite a federal order that barred continued segregation. When the black students were refused entry into the school, sporadic rioting broke out, and as tension mounted, Eisenhower sent federal troops into the city to preserve order. Under their protection, the black students completed the school year. The next year the school board closed the cityÆs high schools, but when they reopened in September, 1959, some black students were admitted, and in the 1960s integration was gradually achieved
Williams summarizes the effect of desegregation this way:
The crisis at Little Rock, which threw a state government into direct conflict with the federal government, would have far-reaching repercussions throughout the country and throughout the civil rights movement. And, as it had in Little rock, the desegregation issue would become a political football for the many southern politicians who were more interested in grandstanding than in fair play (p. 119).