In 1957 the Little Rock School Board had approved a desegregation programme which allowed nine coloured students to be enrolled at the school. The Little Rock Nine were Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Watts, Carlotta Walls La Nier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Pattillo Beals.
On 4th September the nine students arrived for their first day school but found their way barred by anti-desegregation protestors. Arkansas governor, Orval Faubus, had ordered the Arkansas National Guard to stop the students from entering the school. The National Guard remained stationed outside the school until 20th September when the courts ordered Faubus to remove them and let the students attend the school.
On September 23rd the nine students returned to the school and although they were able to enter the school police feared for their safety and sent them home before the end of the day.
President Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army to Little Rock where they were to ensure that the nine students were able to enter and leave the school in safety. He also federalised the National Guard so that they could no longer be deployed by Faubus. The 101st Airborne remained in Little Rock until November 1957.
Eight of the students went on to graduate but Minnijean Brown was suspended for her acts of retaliation against white taunts and abuse.