When the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Brown v. The Board of Education it was not the end of the war to end segregation, rather it was seen as the start of a new battle that brought the issues of federal vs states rights back to the center of attention along with racial issues. In Little Rock Girl 1957 one of the major battle grounds is brought to light, not only to show the struggles of the Little Rock 9, but to show how this incident was played out on the national and international scene.
While there are many books on the Civil Rights movement, I particularly enjoyed the way this book showed a different perspective. In discussing the journalist who took the pictures that became so famous, the book points out that as a local boy he viewed this as both a hyper local issue as well as a national issue. Wearing a plaid shirt, he blended into the crowd, and was able to catch the faces full of hate and show the world. In a way this showed the duality of the situation in Little Rock–there were locals, journalists, and even students who supported integration. Little Rock had integrated its transportation with no conflict, and the governor was supposed to be a moderate. But the situation that developed as they struggled to integrate showed that the loud voices of the segregationists could easily dominate any conversation.
I think that there is a lesson for today’s youth in the observation about how a fraction of the kids in the high school tormented the 9 African American students while the majority sat back and let it happen–even if they disagreed. Today teens see bullying, racism, and other injustices that continue in their own schools–they could learn a lot from this story: from the courage of the 9 teens, those who sat by and let it happen, and those who stood up to try to make a difference.