Google+ Badge BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY
Sunday, 16 August 2015
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY : DESECRATING LITTLE ROCK CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL 1957 : WHEN WE TOOK THE FIGHT TO THERE FRONT DOOR AND BACK DOOR :
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY
A crisis erupted in Little Rock, Arkansas when Governor of Arkansas Orval Faubus called out the National Guard on September 4 to prevent entry to the nine African-American students who had sued for the right to attend an integrated school, Little Rock Central High School. The nine students had been chosen to attend Central High because of their excellent grades.
On the first day of school, only one of the nine students showed up because she did not receive the phone call about the danger of going to school. She was harassed by white protesters outside the school, and the police had to take her away in a patrol car to protect her. Afterward, the nine students had to carpool to school and be escorted by military personnel in jeeps.
Faubus was not a proclaimed segregationist. The Arkansas Democratic Party, which then controlled politics in the state, put significant pressure on Faubus after he had indicated he would investigate bringing Arkansas into compliance with the Browndecision. Faubus then took his stand against integration and against the Federal court ruling.
Faubus' resistance received the attention of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was determined to enforce the orders of the Federal courts. Critics had charged he was lukewarm, at best, on the goal of desegregation of public schools. But, Eisenhower federalized the National Guard in Arkansas and ordered them to return to their barracks. Eisenhower deployed elements of the101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to protect the students.
The students attended high school under harsh conditions. They had to pass through a gauntlet of spitting, jeering whites to arrive at school on their first day, and to put up with harassment from other students for the rest of the year. Although federal troops escorted the students between classes, the students were teased and even attacked by white students when the soldiers were not around. One of the Little Rock Nine, Minnijean Brown, was suspended for spilling a bowl of chili on the head of a white student who was harassing her in the school lunch line. Later, she was expelled for verbally abusing a white female student.
Only Ernest Green of the Little Rock Nine graduated from Central High School. After the 1957–58 school year was over, Little Rock closed its public school system completely rather than continue to integrate. Other school systems across the South followed suit.
During the time period considered to be the "African-American Civil Rights" era, the predominant use of protest was nonviolent, or peaceful. Often referred to as pacifism, the method of nonviolence is considered to be an attempt to impact society positively. Although acts of racial discrimination have occurred historically throughout the United States, perhaps the most violent regions have been in the former Confederate states. During the 1950s and 1960s, the nonviolent protesting of the Civil Rights Movement caused definite tension, which gained national attention.
In order to prepare for protests physically and psychologically, demonstrators received training in nonviolence. According to former Civil Rights activist Bruce Hartford, there are two main branches of nonviolence training. There is the philosophical method, which involves understanding the method of nonviolence and why it is considered useful, and there is the tactical method, which ultimately teaches demonstrators "how to be a protestor--how to sit-in, how to picket, how to defend yourself against attack, giving training on how to remain cool when people are screaming racist insults into your face and pouring stuff on you and hitting you" (Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement). The philosophical method of nonviolence, in the American Civil Rights Movement, was largely inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's "non-cooperation" with the British colonists in India, which was intended to gain attention so that the public would either "intervene in advance," or "provide public pressure in support of the action to be taken" (Erikson, 415). As Hartford explains it, philosophical nonviolence training aims to "shape the individual person's attitude and mental response to crises and violence" (Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement). Hartford and activists like him, who trained in tactical nonviolence, considered it necessary in order to ensure physical safety, instill discipline, teach demonstrators how to demonstrate, and form mutual confidence among demonstrators (Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement).
For many, the concept of nonviolent protest was a way of life, a culture. However, not everyone agreed with this notion. James Forman, former SNCC (and later Black Panther) member and nonviolence trainer, was among those who did not. In his autobiography, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, Forman revealed his perspective on the method of nonviolence as "strictly a tactic, not a way of life without limitations." Similarly, Robert Moses, who was also an active member of SNCC, felt that the method of nonviolence was practical. When interviewed by author Robert Penn Warren, Moses said "There's no question that he [Martin Luther King, Jr.] had a great deal of influence with the masses. But I don't think it's in the direction of love. It's in a practical direction . . ." (Who Speaks for the Negro? Warren).