September 27th, 1958
Little Rock Voters Choose to Close Public Schools Rather Than Integrate
Following the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, school boards across the country were ordered to draft desegregation plans. The school board in Little Rock, Arkansas, drafted a plan and agreed to implement it during the 1957-1958 school year. When nine black students, known as the Little Rock Nine, made their way to Central High School as part of Arkansas’s gradual desegregation plan, they were met by angry crowds and the Arkansas National Guard blocking their entry. Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus encouraged the protestors and did everything in his power to hinder integration. Eventually, President Dwight Eisenhower deployed federal troops to Arkansas and commanded the Arkansas National Guard to escort the students to school.
Not yet through with his attempts to thwart integration, Faubus devised another plan. Following the 1957-1958 school year, the Little Rock School Board petitioned for a delay in the implementation of its desegregation plan. A federal district judge granted a delay until 1961, which the NAACP promptly appealed. The case made its way to the Supreme Court where, on September 12, 1958, the Court ordered immediate integration.
By that time, the Arkansas Legislature had passed a law allowing Governor Faubus to close public schools and later hold a special election to determine public support. Immediately after the Supreme Court released its decision, the governor ordered all four public high schools closed pending a public vote. On September 27, 1958, the people of Arkansas voted overwhelmingly (19,470 to 7561) to keep the schools closed rather than integrate. The schools would remain closed for the entire 1958-1959 academic term, known as “the lost year.”