The Fightin' Fourteenth gives citizenship to all native-born Americans and guarantees equal protection under the law to all citizens. States are prohibited from making laws which abridged the rights of anyone.
The Supreme Court upholds a Louisiana law segregating railroad cars. This decision sets the legal precedent known as "separate but equal": public facilities, including schools, can be separated by race as long as "equal" facilities are provided for Blacks and whites. In reality, facilities intended for Black patrons were rarely, if ever, equal to those for whites.
The Supreme Court hands down its landmark decision declaring that segregation by race in public schools is unconstitutional. Brown, in essence, overturns Plessy by ruling that separate is not equal. In a second Brown ruling in 1955, the Supremes say that integration has to proceed "with all deliberate speed."
The school board of Little Rock, Arkansas, agrees to comply with the Brown decision.
The Little Rock school board adopts a seven-year plan to integrate its public schools. The plan will be implemented at Central High School at the beginning of the 1957-1958 school year.
In response to a lawsuit filed by a group of white Little Rock parents opposed to integration, the Pulaski County Chancery Court issues an injunction against integrating Central High. Governor Orval Faubus testifies in court that gun sales in Little Rock have increased recently and he fears bloodshed if integration goes forward. Faubus' claims were later proven untrue.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of Arkansas overrules the chancery court decision and orders integration at Central to proceed.
Faubus calls the National Guard to Little Rock "to maintain or restore order and protect the lives and property of citizens."
Classes begin at Central High School. The Little Rock Nine do not report for the first day of school.
The Little Rock Nine try to enter Central High School, but they are turned away by the National Guard. Outside the school, an unruly crowd of about 500 protesters shouts obscenities and racial epithets. Arkansas Democrat photographer Will Counts snaps a picture that will come to define the Little Rock Crisis: 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford, alone in the crowd of angry white faces, being screamed at by Hazel Bryan, a white Central student.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act, the first such legislation since 1875. The act extends protections for Black voters. While it doesn't address education, the Civil Rights Act is taken as a sign that the federal government will become more active in civil rights.
The U.S. District Court again orders integration at Central to proceed. Governor Faubus withdraws the National Guard.
The Little Rock Nine return to Central for the first time since September 4 and begin classes. But their school day is cut short as a large crowd of protesters gathers outside the school and threatens them. The Black students are sent home under police escort. President Eisenhower issues Proclamation 3204, calling the protests "unlawful" and a "wilful obstruction of justice." He orders the protesters to go home immediately.
Conditions in Little Rock continue to deteriorate. Describing the situation as "disgraceful," Eisenhower, by Executive Order 10730, calls the Arkansas National Guard into federal service. But he's unsure if the Guard will be loyal to its mission to enforce federal law, so he also dispatches 1,200 paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division, aka the "Screaming Eagles," to the city. It's the first time federal troops have been sent into a southern city since the end of Reconstruction in 1877.
The 101st Airborne escorts the Little Rock Nine to Central High and keeps protesters at bay. Individual soldiers are assigned to accompany each student throughout the day.
In a nationally televised address, Governor Faubus decries federal intervention as a show of "naked force" and declares Arkansas "an occupied territory." "In the name of decency," Faubus asks, "what is happening in America? […] Does the will of the people […] no longer matter?" Guess not, if the will of the people is to spit on high school students.
The National Guard takes over most of the duty assigned to the 101st Airborne. The Little Rock Nine continue to attend Central for the rest of the school year but are subjected to verbal and physical abuse from white students nearly every day. Over the course of the year 100 white students are suspended and four expelled for their actions.
After months of taunts and threats, Little Rock Nine member Minnijean Brown is expelled from Central for fighting back. White students start circulating cards that read "One down…eight to go." Brown moves to New York City and finishes high school there in 1959.
Ernest Green becomes the first African American student to graduate from Central High School. Carlotta Walls and Jefferson Thomas would graduate from Central in 1960. Thelma Mothershed would take correspondence courses and summer classes in St. Louis and receive her diploma from Central by mail. The other members of the Little Rock Nine finished their high school educations elsewhere.
A federal judge grants the Little Rock school board's request for an injunction against integration. As the case winds its way through the courts, the Arkansas General Assembly passes legislation to close schools facing integration.
Governor Faubus orders all Little Rock high schools to close. Yep: he closes the schools rather than admit African American students.
Little Rock residents vote overwhelmingly—19,470 to 7,561—against integration. The city's high schools remain closed for the rest of the 1958-1959 school year.
Little Rock high schools reopen with limited integration.