On September 4, 1957, 14-year-old Carlotta Walls and eight other black teenagers approached Little Rock Central High School, in Arkansas. It was supposed to be their first day of school, but angry protesters threatened the students.
Arkansas National Guardsmen stopped them from entering the building. Hundreds of federal troops armed with rifles and bayonets lined the streets.
Three weeks later, when the teens finally walked through the school’s front doors, they were protected by U.S. Army soldiers sent by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. They were escorted up the school’s front steps by members of the 101st Airborne Division.
The Little Rock Nine were assigned military escorts for the school year, but the troops were not allowed to enter classrooms, bathrooms, or locker rooms. So Carlotta, like the other eight black teens, dealt with humiliation, threats, and violence daily. Students spat on her and pushed her down the stairs, then knocked books out of her hands and kicked her when she picked them up.