The Little Rock Nine: Young Champions for School Integration
Hoxie, like many other school districts in this area, had a split fall term; the split fall term meant that school would start earlier in the summer but would break in late September into early October for the students to help pick cotton on the local cotton farms. On July 11, 1955, Hoxie would start their fall term with 21 black students attending the previously all-white schools made up of approximately 1000 students. For the first two weeks of the fall term, it appeared that Hoxie would follow suit and successfully integrate without many incidences just as the Charleston and Fayetteville school districts. However, on July 25, 1955, all the bottom would fall out on the successful integration when an article in Life Magazine was released. The article in Life Magazine was about small communities in the south that were integrating their schools in compliance with the Brown v. Board of Education Topeka’s ruling; while the intent of the article was good, it would put the spotlight on Hoxie and attract opponents of the desegregation efforts not only from local areas but from across the region. Cabell Phillips a writer for the New York Times would soon reference the situation in Hoxie as “a battle in a test tube.”.
The initial backlash with the integration of the Hoxie School District first came from local people in the community, on August 3, 1955, more than 300 locals began to protest the desegregation of the Hoxie schools. Protesters initiated a boycott trying to persuade the white students not attend school and encouraged others not to support the district. It was reported that half the students stayed at home the next day, however, the Hoxie Superintendent argued that number but would release the actual number of students not in attendance. Protesters from outside the Hoxie area began to take note of the situation and would soon come to the aide of the local protesters. Outside protesters felt that the integration of the Hoxie School District was a test and vowed to help fight the school board on their decision to integrate. On August 13, 1955, protesters from the Little Rock area would attend a rally where a petition with more than 1000 signatures was presented, the petition demanded the resignation of all five board members from the Hoxie School Board. As the board members refused to resign, they promised to remain steadfast in their decision to integrate. The Times Dispatch, a newspaper out of Walnut Ridge reported that “Hoxie battle lines drawn as both sides stand firm in integration dispute.”
While the battle between supporters and opponents of the desegregation of the Hoxie schools began to hear up, Arkansas governor Orval Faubus told the Hoxie school board that he nor the state government would intervene in the dispute. Without support of the governor and with the opposition to desegregation gaining support from outsider, the Hoxie School Board filed suit against the desegregation opponents not only from the local area but also from the opponents across the state. The suit claimed that the integration of the Hoxie School District was successful until the opponents began to argue against the board’s decision to integrate. In November 1955, Federal District Judge Thomas C. Trimble issued a temporary restraining order against the opponents citing that the opponents conspired against the integration at Hoxie Schools; a hearing to make the ruling permanent was held in December of 1955, the court ruled in favor of the Hoxie School Board. In the court’s ruling, it said that the Hoxie School Board could have been held liable had it not made the decision to desegregate as the Brown v. Board of Education Topeka ruling instructed school districts to do so. The opponents of desegregation appealed the court’s decision through the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, but on October 25, 1956 the office of Attorney General Herbert Brownell ruled in favor of the Hoxie School Board; this would mark the first time that the office of the Attorney General would intervene in a school district’s decision to comply with the Brown v. Board of Education Topeka’s ruling.