Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Advisor/Committee Chair

Richard F. Hamm


The Little Rock Crisis was a monumental event within the larger story of school desegregation and the civil rights movement. Governor Orval Faubus sent the Arkansas National Guard to Little Rock Central High September 1957 in the efforts of preventing integration. After much back and forth between the governor and president, Eisenhower then sent federal troops from the 101st Airborne Division to enforce the Brown v. Board decision of 1954. In the background of the constitutional crisis, and amongst the troops in the building, the school administration dealt with backlash from angered segregationists both inside and outside the school. During the 1957-1958 school year, the nine Black students were harassed and tormented, the presence of the troops proved to be a distraction, and school property was continuously vandalized by segregationist students who did much to impair the integration efforts- in hopes the administration would abandon them. However, amidst all the incidents, few of the offending students were disciplined or punished adequately, and even less were suspended for longer than ten days. The school board then petitioned the federal district court asking for a delay of integration based on the adverse effects that the situation had on the educational program; they specifically cited the increased vandalism, financial burdens on the district, and the personal effects on the students and teachers. This case was known as Aaron v. Cooper (1958). Already heavily involved in the Little Rock Crisis, the Little Rock branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), led by Daisy Bates, backed the effort to continue integration. The NAACP argued that the district could have avoided most of the problems used to justify the request for the delay, had the administrators been more strict in their enforcement of the disciplinary policy against students acting out about integration. Ultimately the delay was 2 granted to the school board, and the case stood as an affirmation to segregationists that integration could be stopped if there was enough disruptive opposition. The NAACP immediately appealed the decision. The case progressed all the way to the Supreme Court as Cooper v. Aaron (1958), where they struck down the previous decision and asserted that the rights of the Black children could not be yielded due to the disorder resulting from the actions of the state government. Overlooked in the larger story, I intend to expand the current understanding of the Little Rock Crisis by examining the details of the discipline argument within the Aaron v. Cooper (1958) case, and the discipline environment within the school. In the case, the NAACP brought in two school administration experts to testify on their behalf, but the judge later discredited their testimony, along with one of the members of Central High’s administration that agreed with the NAACP’s argument. I will analyze the testimonies of the experts and two of the administrators, then compare them with how they were interpreted in the case opinion, and what the school environment actually looked like. This will reveal a new perspective on the Little Rock Crisis, one that shows a clear failure on the part of the school administration, a larger picture of the environment inside the walls of the school, and the misconstrued and biased case opinion of the district court.

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