September 25, 1957, became a historic day in the Nation when nine courageous children risked their lives to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Confronted by a hostile crowd and escorted by the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne, they shouldered the burden of integrating a then segregated public school system. Although the Supreme Court’s Landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education struck down racial segregation in public schools, it was the courageous actions of these nine young champions of school integration that tested the strength of that decision. Their actions not only mobilized a Nation to insure that access to a quality education was granted to all Americans, but they helped to define the civil rights movement. They became known as the Little Rock Nine.
For over fifty years, the Little Rock Nine have worked to advance the principles of excellence in education for young people, especially those of color, through the Little Rock Nine® Foundation, a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, established in February, 1999. Considering the high price they had to pay to attend public school, the champions who make up the Little Rock Nine® Foundation are committed to insuring that future generations have access to quality education.
Since 1999, the Foundation and its nine members have dedicated themselves to advancing their cause by providing financial support to needy and worthy students; urging local and national governmental bodies to maintain high quality systems of instruction; convening forums to discuss and debate questions related to educational delivery systems; and coordinating the publication of materials designed to inform the public about the needs in this arena.
The Little Rock Nine’s many contributions to society and American history have been acknowledged through the numerous awards and recognitions they have received, including the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.