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Nine Negro Students Enter Little Rock's Central High

(This is the first in a series of articles from Little Rock by the Crimson's Managing Editor, George H. Watson, Jr. '58.)

By George H. Watson jr., Special to the CRIMSON

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Sept. 25--Citizens of this border state capital proved today that racial segregation is not worth the price of active resistance. They demonstrated, at least, that when faced with the armed might of 400 federal troops, discretion is the better part of valor.

The only person who resisted actively this morning, trying to seize a paratrooper's rifle, found himself quickly knocked to the ground, covered with blood, and at the mercy of four soldiers with drawn bayonets.

Another active group of protesters, in this instance a gang of ducktailed teenagers, expressed their disapproval by stoning two Negro boys.

But the great majority of citizens who surrounded the barricade blocking off Central High School this morning simply stood and watched. Many had difficulty even watching, for except for reporters and photographers, few were allowed within a block of the school.

Besides the newsmen, a few families owning adjoining property, and the soldiers themselves, only a handful saw the United States Army staff car which unloaded nine Negro students in front of Central High School at 9:22 this morning.

[The Associated Press reported that 750 of Central High's 2,000 white students were absent Wednesday.]

Unlike previous days, the Negroes did not use side doors to enter. Soldiers took them directly to the main entrance, and flanked the students as they climbed the long flight of steps leading to the main doors of the impressive sandstone building. Inside the school, white and Negro students heard Maj. Gen. Edwin A. Walker tell an assembly that "You have nothing to fear from my soldiers, . . ." but "I would be less than honest if I did not tell you that I intend to use all means necessary to prevent any interference with the execution of your school board's order."

Students Walk Out

During the morning at least ten students walked out of the school, refusing to attend integrated classes. The striking teenagers found consolation from tearful women, who wept and cried "There are niggers in our school!"

One woman said, "Anybody can get in there with a gang of soldiers taking them in. I have two daughters who graduated from that school, and four grandchildren who are on the way. They won't come if the niggers are there."

At the same time, the woman stated that she opposed mob action and would fight integration by sending her grandchildren to private school.

Until 11:20 the school was quiet. Then an alarm, ostensibly for a fire drill, was rung. The student body filed out of the school, onto the sidewalk directly in front of the block-long cordon. Only one Negro girl was seen among the white students. She laughed and sang school songs during the recess that followed, along with the other children.

It was later learned that a telephone call, reporting a bomb in the school, had caused the evacuation of the students. Army searchers found no evidence of attempted sabotage and classes were resumed shortly after noon.

During the recess several white students talked freely with reporters. One girl, an attractive redhead who refused to give her name or be photographed, said, "If parents will just go home and let us alone, we'll be all right. It's going to be hard, but we'll do it. Nobody wants it, but it has to be because it's the law. There might be a few bloody noses, but if the mob stays away, we'll work it out."

An Integrated Lunchroom

The same girl reported that in the lunchroom of the school she had witnessed a Negro boy sitting alone. "A white girl and boy of very high quality asked the Negro if he would like to sit with them," she said. "He got up, grinned at them, and I believe that he was very happy that they had asked him," she continued.

Although the situation in the school was well in hand, occasional flares of violence occurred several blocks away. D. F. Blake, 46, of North Little Rock, was knocked down and struck repeated blows with the butt of an M1 rifle when he refused to obey the orders of a sergeant.

Blake, who was later hospitalized, said, "This country fought for its independence, and now is the time to begin upholding it."

[The Associated Press reported that another man was bayoneted in the arm when he refused to move out of a soldier's way.]

In the other major incidents, a crowd of about 40 white teenagers chased and stoned two Negro boys walking together. The Negroes, John Williams and Lawrence Coley, both 17, said that they were taking a short cut to a friend's house. The Army took the Negro boys into protection, but did not deal with the white assailants.

The same group of teenagers continually caused minor trouble throughout the day. Cars driven by Negroes were stoned, and shouts of "There's a damned nigger" and stronger epithets brought only occasional remonstrances from soldiers.

One of the teenagers told this reporter, "Eisenhower is off playing golf at some fancy place, and telling the niggers, 'Well, boys, I hope you can make it.'" "Well, they ain't going to make it, and that's a fact," he shouted.

More Arrests

At least six white men were apprehended by soldiers during the day, but the arrests seemed to be more object lessons than reactions to specific guilt.

Persons who did not clear thorough-fares on demand were subject to arrest indiscriminately, and, at times it appeared that the least offending were marched off.

Reporters and photographers fared better than on previous days, and the newsman who shrugged his shoulders and said "I'm one of those guys from New York, but I want your story," was left unmolested.

But one elderly man with a cane told a group of reporters, "I've been living on this street for 35 years, and we never had any trouble with our colored people 'til you bunch of hypocritical nigger-lovers came down from New York."

The only other incident near the school came when a Negro delivery boy had the tires of his bicycle slashed by adolescent hoodlums. A group of photographers who recorded the vandalism collected twenty dollars to replace the tires.

Despite outbreaks of violence and destruction, the major achievement of the day was left intact: nine Negroes spent a full day in Central High School.

But the big question still remains: What will happen when the 101st Airborne withdraws from its positions around Central High School

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