News happening around Little Rock Air Force Base

News

60 years later: Airmen honor MLK, Little Rock Nine

Team Little Rock members march in unity to remember Martin Luther King Jr. January 13, 2017, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The event began at the Herk Hall on base and participants marched to the nearby Walters Community Support Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Codie Collins)

Team Little Rock members march in unity to remember Martin Luther King Jr. January 13, 2017, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The event began at the Herk Hall on base and participants marched to the nearby Walters Community Support Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Codie Collins)

U.S. Air Force Col. Charles Brown, 19th Airlift Wing commander, kicked off the Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative walk with opening remarks January 13, 2017, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The event began at the Herk Hall and participants marched to the nearby Walters Community Support Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Codie Collins)

U.S. Air Force Col. Charles Brown, 19th Airlift Wing commander, kicked off the Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative walk with opening remarks January 13, 2017, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The event began at the Herk Hall and participants marched to the nearby Walters Community Support Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Codie Collins)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

U.S. Airmen from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., honored one of the greatest civil rights activists, Jan. 13, 2017. Airmen walked alongside local community leaders for a commemorative march honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., and the historic Little Rock Nine.

Segregation: End of an Era

Despite the fact that the United States of America has been racially segregated for most of its history, African-Americans have volunteered to serve as U.S. service members since colonial times. The U.S. Air Force was the first branch of the DOD to integrate and has made integration a priority since its inception in 1948.

Though around a decade later, discriminatory laws and attitudes dominated the country and especially in the South.

One of the most influential events of the anti-segregation movement in the history of the U.S. occurred in Little Rock, Ark.  

Nine African-Americans arrived for the first day of school at Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., Sept. 4, 1957. They were the first to do so, in the school’s 30 year history.  

Three years prior, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown v. Board of Education that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. The students, known as the Little Rock Nine, were recruited by Daisy Bates, president of the Arkansas branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

On the students’ first day of school at Central High, a white mob gathered and Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus deployed the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the black students from entering, in spite of President Dwight D. Eisenhower request to remove the Arkansas National Guard Soldiers and let the Little Rock Nine enter the school.

One of the most enduring images from that day is a photograph of one of the African-American students, Elizabeth Eckford, holding a notebook and stoically attempting to enter the school as a crowd of hostile, screaming white students and adults surround her. The photograph was printed and widely distributed, bringing the Little Rock controversy to national and international attention.

On Sept. 9, 1957, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sent a telegram to Eisenhower urging him to “take a strong forthright stand in the Little Rock situation.” King went on to say that if the federal government did not take a stand against the injustice it would set the progress of integration back 50 years.

“This is a great opportunity for you and the federal government to back up the longings and aspirations of millions of peoples of good will and make law and order a reality,” King said.

In response to Faubus’ brazen actions, NAACP lawyers, including Thurgood Marshall, won a federal district court injunction to prevent the governor from blocking the students’ entry.

On Sept. 20, 1957, the Little Rock Police Department took over to maintain order. The Little Rock Nine finally entered the school through a side entrance three days later, escorted by police. However, the group was rushed home soon afterward due to possible mob violence from 1,000 white protesters.

Then, approximately twenty days after the students’ initial attempt to attend school, Eisenhower sent in 1,200 members of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and placed them in charge of the activated Arkansas National Guardsmen. Escorted by the Soldiers, the Little Rock Nine attended their first full day of classes on Sept. 25, 1957, and were shielded by the 101st Airborne Division and the Arkansas National Guard for the remainder of their school year.

King praised the president’s actions after the students were finally able to attend classes.

“I wish to express my sincere support for the stand you have taken to restore law and order in Little Rock, Arkansas,” King said. “You should know that the overwhelming majority of southerners, Negro and white, stand firmly behind your resolute action.”

In May 1958, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Central High School to see the only senior among the Little Rock Nine, Ernest Green, graduate and receive his diploma. Green went on to serve as assistant secretary of the Federal Department of Labor under President Jimmy Carter.

King was influential in the achievements of the Little Rock Nine and successfully assisted obtaining military assistance in a pivotal moment in the history of Arkansas and the United States.

Coming Full Circle

On Jan. 13, 2017, Little Rock Air Force Base honored King prior to Martin Luther King Day. The Little Rock Central High School marching band marched with U.S. Air Force Airmen to remember King’s major feats.

(Ret.) U.S. Army Brig. Gen. William J. Johnson, the first African-American general in the history of the Arkansas National Guard, spoke to inspire a new generation and reminded them of the major accomplishments made in the country and how great leaders helped usher change.

“Great leaders, by definition, are rare,” Johnson said. “Dr. Martin Luther King risked everything to help others. That is what we should do to honor him on this holiday.”

Now, approximately 50 years following his death, Little Rock Air Force Base honors King and his efforts to integrate. A team of Airmen plan to pay tribute by volunteering at Little Rock Central High School on MLK Day to honor the courage of the Little Rock Nine, King and the ripple effects that spurred civil rights into action.

USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.

Photo Gallery: Week in Review

News Search