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In 1957 those who are now known as the Little Rock Nine, nine African-American students, accompanied by an armed guard of federalized troops, faced a mob in order to integrate Little Rock Central High School. Following a 1954 ruling of the Supreme Court, Brown v. Board of Education, that state laws requiring separate schools for blacks and whites were unconstitutional, Arkansas governor Orval Faubus called out the Arkansas National Guard, who turned away nine black students on September 4, 1957. On September 25, 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower called out elements of the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to Arkansas. He also federalized Arkansas's National Guard, and the nine students walked into Central High.
The sculpture, created by John and Kathy Deering, stands on the land of the state capitol building. Named Testament, the independent figures of the nine students are presented as though they are walking through the crowd to their first day of class where they will be the only black students in a formerly all-white school. Their troubles were not over on the first day, however, as the new students were verbally abused, and some threats were made. Therefore, the nine had to be escorted to their classes by guards.
In addition to the figures of the nine students at the Capitol, there are ground plaques with quotations from these students. For example, Elizabeth Eckford wrote,
If we have honestly acknowledged our painful bit shared past, then we can have reconciliation.
Another student, Ernest Green, wrote,
We wanted to widen options for ourselves, and later for our children.
And, Minnijean Brown Trickey quoted Gandhi,
We have to be the change we want to see in the world.
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