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After the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Little Rock school board accepted the fact that it had to integrate and began working on an integration plan. The school board was not particularly happy about having to integrate, however, and it took three years to work out a minimalistic plan. [1] The plan called for integration in three phases. In the first phase, during the 1957-1958 school year, the senior high schools (grades 10-12) would be integrated. The junior high schools (grades 7-9) would be integrated after successful integration at the senior high level, followed by the elementary schools (grades 1-6). [2]

As the 1957-1958 school year drew near, the board began to plan for integration at the senior high level. It opted to continue operating Horace Mann, the black high school, while admitting only a few blacks to all-white Central High. The board selected 17 black students who had volunteered to attend Central, based mostly on their grades. As the end of August drew near, the number dwindled down to nine.

These nine students faced adversity well before the opening of the school year. Whites went to court in an attempt to acquire an injunction which would delay the start of integration. On August 27, 1957, Mrs. Clyde A. Thomason filed suit in Chancery Court. Mrs. Thomason, a member of the anti-integration Mothers League of Little Rock Central High School (a group that included few actual parents of Central High students), testified that "she had been told that the mothers were terrified to send their children to Central because of a rumor that the white and Negro youths were forming gangs and some of them were armed with guns and knives." [3] Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus backed up Mrs. Thomason's claims, although neither cited their source. Judge Murray O. Reed granted the injunction, but Federal Judge Ronald N. Davies later overruled it, ordering the school board to continue with integration.

The students faced opposition from not only the white community but the black community as well. Melba Pattillo, a 15-year-old who was one of the nine, remembered a confrontation with a black adult at church one Sunday:

"I was startled when a woman I'd seen often enough but didn't really know began lecturing me. For a moment I feared she was going to haul off and hit me. She was beside herself with anger. I could barely get my good morning in because she was talking very loud, attracting attention as she told me I was too fancy for my britches and that other people in our community would pay for my uppity need to be with white folks." [4]

Despite the opposition, the nine students prepared to enter Central High on September 3, 1957.

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