Children And Segregation: 38 Photos Of Little Minds And Big Hatred

Published April 1, 2017
Brown V Board Children
Linda Brown In Class
Linda Outside Sumner Elementary
Mansfield High Segregated Classroom
Children And Segregation: 38 Photos Of Little Minds And Big Hatred
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Some of the most dangerous battles of the civil rights movement weren’t fought by adults. They were instead fought by African-American children who walked into the first integrated schools in their communities.

They had to walk, sometimes alone, past mobs of people screaming in their faces. Then they had to spend hours sitting next to white students, many of whom had spent the morning listening to their parents teach them to hate.

The girl who first stepped onto this battlefield was Linda Brown, who was only in the third-grade when she changed the face of America in 1954. She had been forced to travel across town to an all-black school, where she was stuck with a sub-par education, purely because the white students at the school closest to her home refused to be educated with her in the building.

Brown, her parents, and the parents of some of her classmates wouldn’t stand for it. They filed a lawsuit, known today as Brown v. Board of Education, that would ultimately reach the Supreme Court and whose impact would ripple across the United States of America.

Because of Brown and 19 children like her, African-American students received the right to equal education.

But that didn’t mean that life would be easy from there on out. As the Supreme Court started forcing segregated American schools to accept black students, many whites pushed back. They staged massive protests against the kids who enrolled in these schools and did everything they could to scare them away.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, the first nine students to enroll in Little Rock Central High were stopped by the National Guard, put there by Governor Orval Faubus, with direct orders to keep these children out. In Clinton, Tennessee, 12 students had to face violent protests organized by white supremacists and even terrorists attacks on their school.

In Louisiana, six-year-old Ruby Bridges had to go to New Orleans' William Frantz Elementary School alone, as the only black student in the entire school. On her way to school, she walked past an angry mob that threw vitriol in her young face.

Going to school in the first integrated schools in America was a terrifying and sometimes life-threatening experience for these young children. But if it wasn't for their courage, many Americans wouldn’t have the rights they enjoy today.

To learn more about the history of U.S. civil rights following this looks at integrated schools, see these photos of segregation in America and the civil rights protests that changed the nation forever.

Mark Oliver
Mark Oliver is a writer and teacher, and father whose work has appeared on The Onion's StarWipe, Yahoo, and Cracked.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.
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Oliver, Mark. "Children And Segregation: 38 Photos Of Little Minds And Big Hatred.", April 1, 2017, Accessed May 19, 2024.