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A War of Races: The Fight for Integration

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A War of Races: The Fight for Integration

A War of Races: The Fight for Integration

For nearly half a century the black community lived in the separate but equal world controlled by the white man. This was especially true in the Southern states, where nearly every white person maintained a sense of superiority over their black neighbors. While the states in the North had started to break down these racial barriers on their own it would take a Supreme Court Decision, the intervention of the President of the United States, and the U.S. Army to bring integration to Central High School in the Southern town of Little Rock, Arkansas.

As a child, Melba Beals new little of the world outside of her colored neighborhood. As she grew older, the actions of the adults around her ingrained a fear and distrust of “whites.”(6) This fear was reinforced on such occasions as Melba being turned away from the merry-go-round at the tender age of five, or witnessing the power the white grocer, Mr. Waylan, wielded over her parents. (16) With nearly every aspect of life outside the safety of her neighborhood controlled by “white folk,” Melba had little reason to hope her wish of seeing the insides of the majestic Central High School would ever come true. On May 17, 1954 the Supreme Court would set the wheels in motion that would allow Melbas wish to be granted. Integration was the new law of the land, and Central High School would no longer be only for “white” students. However, the implementation of these laws was far from speedy.

Two years after Brown v. Board of Education it appeared that integration was set to begin in Little Rock. As the time grew near for the selected “negro” children to enter Central High School, public outrage was sweeping the city, and Governor Orval Faubus was refusing to support integration. When the day came for Melba and the others to start school at Central Governor Faubus deployed the Arkansas National Guard to prevent their admittance. Called to active duty under the premise of maintaining order and protecting the lives and property of the citizens, the Guard did little to accomplish either. With each passing minute the hate and bigotry of the white population gathered in front of CHS swelled until the black students arrived. The National Guard stood idly by as blacks were intimidated and assaulted ultimately forcing the nine students to flee for safety. This racist act by the Governor was effective until the removal of the Arkansas Guard at the order of the Federal Court, clearing the way for integration. Twenty days after the start of school the Little Rock Nine would finally attend classes. Upon entering the building it became clear that the nine were not welcome, and little was being done to assure their protection. Ultimately they would be forced to leave early as officials were overpowered by the mob.

The varied reactions of the nation show the deep divide between the North and South in terms of race relations. While the Little Rock Nine were being praised in the North, the blacks of the South were being terrorized. The threat of retaliation against the black students was so great that President Eisenhower deployed one of the most capable military units in the nation to Central High School. With the 101st Airborne Division in place to maintain order and protect

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