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An Introduction to Constitutional Law » Cooper v. Aaron

An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

In 1955, the Little Rock, Arkansas, school board approved a plan for gradual integration. However, the so-called “Massive Resistance” spread to Arkansas. Citizens approved an amendment to the state constitution that opposed Brown and desegregation. Based on that amendment, a state court judge issued an injunction against members of the Little Rock school board. They were ordered to stop the implementation of the federal court’s integration plan at Central High School.

In response, a federal district court issued an order to block the state court injunction. The situation escalated quickly. Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent black students from entering Central High School. The National Guard blocked nine African-American students — known as the Little Rock Nine — from entering Central High School. Neither Faubus nor the Guard were bound by the previous court order, which only applied to members of the school board. The situation then escalated further. A federal court enjoined the National Guard from blocking access for the African-American students. In response, the Little Rock Police Department replaced the National Guard. The police had not been included in the prior court order that bound the National Guard.

Two days later, in one of the most dramatic moments of the Civil Rights Movement, President Eisenhower dispatched the 101st Airborne to Arkansas.

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