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These Horrifying Pictures Show Just How Brave The Little Rock Nine Were

"I looked into the face of an old woman and it seemed a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat on me." —Elizabeth Eckford, 1957

Last updated on February 20, 2018, at 5:27 p.m. ET

Posted on February 20, 2018, at 5:27 p.m. ET

Following the landmark 1954 ruling of Brown v. Board of Education, the United States moved in the direction of desegregating schools that kept minorities in separate and poorly funded learning environments. While the ruling showed promise for the future of the US's educational system, implementing desegregation would not come easy for towns that had existed for decades under sharp racial divisions.

One such place was Little Rock, Arkansas, which in 1957 white locals attacked a group of black students, known as the Little Rock Nine, planned to attend Little Rock Central High School. On Sept. 4, 1957, the first day of classes, Gov. Orval Faubus called for the National Guard to prevent the students from entering the building. Several weeks later President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent the US Army's 101st Airborne Division to escort the Little Rock Nine safely into the school.

These are are some of the troubling and triumphant images from that month and the years that followed.

The Little Rock Nine form a study group after being prevented from entering Little Rock's Central High School in 1957.
Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

The Little Rock Nine form a study group after being prevented from entering Little Rock's Central High School in 1957.

US Army troops form a line in a street to enforce the desegregation of Central High School in 1957.
Paul Slade / Getty Images

US Army troops form a line in a street to enforce the desegregation of Central High School in 1957.

Chief of Police Eugene Smith stops a group of white protesters from making their way to Central High School.
Francis Miller / Getty Images

Chief of Police Eugene Smith stops a group of white protesters from making their way to Central High School.

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Elizabeth Eckford ignores the hostile screams and stares of fellow students on her first day of school.
Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Elizabeth Eckford ignores the hostile screams and stares of fellow students on her first day of school.

A group of white teenagers trail two black students down a street as they make their way to school.
Ed Clark / Getty Images

A group of white teenagers trail two black students down a street as they make their way to school.

Paul Davis Taylor displays a Confederate flag in front of Little Rock Central High School.
AP

Paul Davis Taylor displays a Confederate flag in front of Little Rock Central High School.

A crowd of segregationists jeer a lone black student as he makes his way to school.
Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

A crowd of segregationists jeer a lone black student as he makes his way to school.

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An unidentified white student slugs an effigy of a black student outside Central High School. Troopers stationed around the school broke up the demonstration.
Anonymous / AP

An unidentified white student slugs an effigy of a black student outside Central High School. Troopers stationed around the school broke up the demonstration.

Left: Two Little Rock Central High School students wearing Confederate Army attire wait outside of school after participating in a walk out. About 50 students staged a walk out from their classes that day. Right: A group of white protesters stage a rally against school integration.
Getty Images

Left: Two Little Rock Central High School students wearing Confederate Army attire wait outside of school after participating in a walk out. About 50 students staged a walk out from their classes that day. Right: A group of white protesters stage a rally against school integration.

National Guardsmen give a black student and his bicycle a lift to school while enforcing desegregation at Central High School.
Paul Slade / Getty Images

National Guardsmen give a black student and his bicycle a lift to school while enforcing desegregation at Central High School.

Lt. Col. Marion Johnson of the National Guard escorts Johnny Richmond away from a hostile crowd around Central High School.
Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Lt. Col. Marion Johnson of the National Guard escorts Johnny Richmond away from a hostile crowd around Central High School.

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Alex Wilson, a reporter from the Tri-State Defender, is shoved by an angry white mob while covering the desegregation of Central High School.
Fjg / AP

Alex Wilson, a reporter from the Tri-State Defender, is shoved by an angry white mob while covering the desegregation of Central High School.

A US Army paratrooper uses the butt of his rifle to nudge along a man identified as C.E. Blake, who was hit in the head when he tried to take a weapon from a trooper near Central High School.
Anonymous / AP

A US Army paratrooper uses the butt of his rifle to nudge along a man identified as C.E. Blake, who was hit in the head when he tried to take a weapon from a trooper near Central High School.

White troublemakers are apprehended with bayonets by federal troops near Central High School.
Ed Clark / Getty Images

White troublemakers are apprehended with bayonets by federal troops near Central High School.

A bloody-faced demonstrator is led away by police officers after more than 1,000 marchers attempted to break through police lines.
Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

A bloody-faced demonstrator is led away by police officers after more than 1,000 marchers attempted to break through police lines.

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A group of black teenagers walk through a crowd of white protesters on their way to class.
Universalimagesgroup / Getty Images

A group of black teenagers walk through a crowd of white protesters on their way to class.

White students block the doors of the school, denying access to six black students attempting to enter. Moments later the black students were shoved down a flight of stairs and onto the sidewalk, where city police broke up the altercation.
William P. Straeter / AP

White students block the doors of the school, denying access to six black students attempting to enter. Moments later the black students were shoved down a flight of stairs and onto the sidewalk, where city police broke up the altercation.

Mrs. L.C. Bates, president of the Arkansas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and her husband watch Gov. Orval Faubus on television as he addresses the nation. He attacked the president for sending federal troops into Little Rock, accusing the administration of employing "police state methods." Bates was an adviser to nine black high school students who attempted to enroll in Central High School.
Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Mrs. L.C. Bates, president of the Arkansas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and her husband watch Gov. Orval Faubus on television as he addresses the nation. He attacked the president for sending federal troops into Little Rock, accusing the administration of employing "police state methods." Bates was an adviser to nine black high school students who attempted to enroll in Central High School.

Carol Lackie's classroom at Central High School is seen void of students.
/ ASSOCIATED PRESS

Carol Lackie's classroom at Central High School is seen void of students.

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Jefferson Thomas and Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine photographed during their lunch period at Central High School.
Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Jefferson Thomas and Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine photographed during their lunch period at Central High School.

L.C. Bates looks out through the broken and taped front window of her home in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1958.
Grey Villet / Getty Images

L.C. Bates looks out through the broken and taped front window of her home in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1958.

Ernest Green, 18, of the Little Rock Nine prepares for graduation in 1958.
Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Ernest Green, 18, of the Little Rock Nine prepares for graduation in 1958.

Ernest Green makes his way with his graduating class to receive his diploma.
Grey Villet / Getty Images

Ernest Green makes his way with his graduating class to receive his diploma.

Left: Ernest Green receives his diploma and becomes the first black student to graduate from Central High School. Right: Ernest Green celebrates his graduation with his mother.
Getty Images

Left: Ernest Green receives his diploma and becomes the first black student to graduate from Central High School. Right: Ernest Green celebrates his graduation with his mother.

Ernest Green sits among his white classmates as they graduate from high school in 1958.
Grey Villet / Getty Images

Ernest Green sits among his white classmates as they graduate from high school in 1958.

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