Little Rock, 1957

September 25, 1997

FORTY YEARS AGO today in Little Rock, Ark., nine determined black children stepped into the annals of American history by quietly walking past a screaming mob of white men and women who, with their taunts and threats, desperately clung to a legacy of segregation and hate.

The Little Rock Nine struck a powerful blow for racial equality by integrating Central High School in that Southern city. It was a struggle. And it would not have occurred without the intervention of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who sent 1,200 troops of the 101st Airborne division to assure the mission's success.

Eisenhower set a precedent that resulted in federal intervention on other times when the civil rights of African Americans were in jeopardy. Forty years later, the nation is trying to engage itself in a great debate on race relations that another president has called for. But the conclusion is already known: We may not be where we ought to be, but, thank goodness, we're not where we were.

Pub Date: 9/25/97

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