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Negroes slip by angry mob, enter school; whites leave

Original caption: Three men from the mob around little Rock Central high School are driven from the area at bayonet point by these soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division on September 25, 1957. The presence of the troops permitted the nine Negro students to enter the school with only minor background incidents. President Eisenhower was compelled to enforce the Supreme Court’s public school desegregation decision with troops after the integrity of the court was challenged by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus. File photo UPI
Original caption: Three men from the mob around little Rock Central high School are driven from the area at bayonet point by these soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division on September 25, 1957. The presence of the troops permitted the nine Negro students to enter the school with only minor background incidents. President Eisenhower was compelled to enforce the Supreme Court’s public school desegregation decision with troops after the integrity of the court was challenged by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus. File photo UPI | License Photo

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Sept. 23, 1957 (UP) -- White students - faced with the decision of sitting with Negroes for the first time - began streaming out of Central minutes after the nine Negroes entered.

"They're in, they're in," a white girl ran down the street screaming.

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"Let's go in and get the -------s out," her mother said.

But there was no immediate attempt by a crowd to invade the school.

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Police arrested at least 12 persons.

Some of the 12 were white girl students. They apparently were ringleaders of groups which left the school and then began screaming for their friends to join them.

School officials did not immediately disclose what went on inside the building.

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One white girl telephoned her mother, who was at work:

"Mother, come and get me: they're fighting something awful inside the school. Boys are fighting in the gym and one girl has been beaten."

There are about 1,200 white students normally enrolled at Central.

The Negroes got into the school for the first time through a ruse.

The ruse was set up by five Negroes, one a photographer, who sneaked toward a side entrance to the school. While the crowd was surging through police barricades to get at the five decoys, the nine Negro students slipped in through another side entrance.

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"N-----, you're not going to pass here," the whites yelled at the decoys. The crowd burst past barricades set up all around the school by state and city police and went after the decoys.

The Negroes ran. But the crowd caught the photographer, tripped him, stomped him, beat him and wrecked his camera.

By the time the photographer managed to get to his feet and escape, 50 city policeman and 20 state policemen had cordoned off the area with cars and motorcycles.

One of the Negroes with the photographer was kicked. He didn't run as fast as the others; he stood his ground after a preliminary start, and even after he was kicked, didn't run.

"Get a rope...hang him...kill the black S.O.B.," members of the mob yelled. "They're getting in the back door."

But by that time it was too late. The Negroes were in. They got through just before the last bell rang at 8.55 a.m.

By this time, the white students had started streaming out of the school. Thirty to 50 boys and girls were in the first groups to walk out.

Mothers on the sidewalk started screeching:

"I want my children out! I want my children out!"

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This shouting kept up for a few minutes but then the excitement died down to some extent.

There were still shouts of "come on out of there" and "let's go in and get 'em." But the city and state police, ordered there early this morning, stood with tear gas guns, pistols and nightsticks ready.

The whites then generally contented themselves with shouting and name-calling - at Negroes and police.

Central High officials reportedly were letting white students sign out and go home.

Two policemen took a white girl out of the school by her arms and pulled her, protesting loudly, down the front steps of the school. They put her in a patrol wagon.

As the patrol wagon passed one of the two crowds outside, the girl looked through a window and started screaming.

A man took off down the street after the patrol wagon yelling, "Come help me get my daughter. Come help me get my daughter!"

He was joined by other members of the crowd and they all raced off out of sight behind the patrol wagon. Some said they were going to the city hall.

Some white girls who walked out screamed for friends inside the school to join them. Some tried to go back into the building after they had walked out and entice their friends out.

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One policeman grabbed the ringleader of a group of four or five girls running across the street and headed for a patrol wagon with her screaming and kicking.

She broke free and ran back into the school. The girl police had taken away in the patrol wagon was a member of the group who also ran back into the school building, but was caught.

A short, husky policeman ripped off his badge, yelled, "I quit" and walked off to cheers from the crowd. Photographers tried to take his picture but he lashed out at them with his nightstick.

He was identified as Tommy Dunaway. The crowd passed a hat to take up a collection for him.

Night Police Chief Gene Smith, in charge of the guard at the school, personally charged three men back into the crowd with his club.

About 500 whites milled around the school this morning. Police noted many out-of-county license plates.

One woman suffered a heart attack and was taken away in an ambulance.

The city police kept the crowd moving and barred everyone but students and school employees from the Central High campus. Police barred all autos from the block surrounding the school and kept all cars moving too.

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One of the most vocal whites was Mrs. Clyde Thomasson, a segregation leader. She told reporters they should "be in Maryland reporting a lye-throwing incident instead of spreading lies about Little Rock and the South."

"It is going to take more than an injunction to keep me from acting like a mother," Mrs. Thomasson said.

City police set up barricades around the school last night. Fifty state police were there to help.

Central High was floodlighted all night and persons were barred from the area.

White students began entering the school at 7:45 this morning. Early arrivals were those who had work to make up.

The Central High situation began Sept. 2., when Gov. Orval Faubus - saying he had reports of imminent violence - called out the National Guard to prevent the school's integration.

Faubus sent the guard home Friday night, when U.S. District Judge Ronald N. Davies decided the governor's fears of violence were groundless. The judge put Faubus under injunction not to interfere with the school's integration.

The governor was attending a governor's conference in Sea Island, Ga., today.

Ministers throughout Little Rock preached and prayed for peaceful integration of Central High yesterday.

The Rev. Dunbar H. Ogden Jr., president of the Inter-racial Greater Little Rock Ministerial Assn., for instance preached at Central Presbyterian Church on "Christ in Crisis."

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But five Negroes who tried to attend a service at white Henderson Methodist Church, on the urgings of their own pastor, were turned away.

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