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LITTLE ROCK INTEGRATION CRISIS: Should the Federal Government Intervene?
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in public schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees “equal protection of the laws.” To comply with this decision, the school board in Little Rock, Arkansas, enrolled nine black students in Central High School, which had formerly enrolled only white students. When the black students arrived for class on September 4, 1957, however, an angry, white mob surrounded the building and blocked them from entering. The governor of Arkansas refused to intervene, prompting President Dwight D. Eisenhower to consider sending federal troops to Little Rock to enforce the Court’s ruling. Supporters of federal intervention argued that sending troops would protect the students, help dismantle segregation, and uphold the authority of both the law and the U.S. government. Opponents of federal intervention argued that state governments had the right and power under the Constitution to control the speed of integration in their local communities, that the Supreme Court had overstepped its authority, and that only Congress could require states to integrate public schools.
Let your students get the facts and decide for themselves: Should President Eisenhower have intervened in the integration crisis in Little Rock, Arkansas, or should he have let the state government handle the matter? Be sure to check out Issues & Controversies in American History’s clear and unbiased examination of the Little Rock integration crisis this month.
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