Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, became known to the whole population of the USA after the events that happened in it in the middle of the 20th century. What is more, they attracted international attention and started to be discussed not in the framework of the educational issues but with reference to the civil rights. The problem reached federal authority, a governor, and a president.
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In September 1957 a group of African American students enrolled in this education institution for the first time. This event attracted lots of attention and became extraordinary because the school used to be racially segregated and only three years earlier, as the US government declared national desegregation, it accepted a plan of gradual change. As a result, these nine students became known worldwide as the Little Rock Nine. They were the first African Americans who graduated the school that used to accept only white people1.
In 1954, the US educational system was greatly affected by the decision that was made by the Supreme Court when dealing which the case Brown v. Board of Education. Under its influence, public school segregation was proclaimed unconstitutional. While such an alteration appealed to the previously discriminated individuals, the majority of the white population was not ready to accept it. Facing public resistance, the federal authorities allowed the states to integrate changes with the comfortable speed so that people had enough time to adapt to them. Still, the fact that Central High School in Little Rock allowed to enroll African Americans does not resolve the situation, and the issue remained critical. Federal and state powers could not reach a compromise and total desegregation delayed.
Such great alteration in the sphere of education and civil rights became possible because of the federal government involvement. The educational system of Arkansas had no desire to implement enrollment changes until the Supreme Court announced its decision and urged schools to accept diverse populations. It was mentioned that it took state authorities several years to enroll first nine students but even after those problems were faced.
In 1963, a governor of the State of Alabama, George Wallace, made a speech in which he revealed his position regarding the issue. Unlike the representatives of the federal government, the president of the Alabama National Guard, and some other authorities, he believed that segregation should not be prohibited. Wallace tried to prevent two African Americans from registering at the University. He believed that the federal government had no right to implement a new rule, as the states were now allowed to participate in the decision-making process and influence its outcome: “seeking to preserve and maintain the peace and dignity of this State, and the individual freedoms of the citizens thereof, [I] do hereby denounce and forbid this illegal and unwarranted action by the Central Government2”.
Personally, I believe that the federal government and states’ authorities need to cooperate and to reach consensuses when some issues occur. Still, if it is not possible, the federal government should have more power. It cares about all fifty states and tends to make the country united. If all states implement only their own constitutions, there will be no unity anymore because of the discrepancies among the parties. The federal government has a right and responsibility to “guarantee basic rights that are necessary for a well-functioning democracy3”, and a right to receive appropriate education is among them. Thus, it should be able to interfere in individual states’ affairs in particular situations.
History.com Staff. Integration of Central High School 2010. Web.
Miroff, Bruce, Raymond Seidelman, Todd Swanstrom, and Tom De Luca. The Democratic Debate: American Politics in an Age of Change, Boston: Cengage Learning, 2014. Print.
Wallace, George. Governor George C. Wallace’s School House Door Speech 2002. Web.