The Little Rock Nine and the Children’s Movement



Students will:

  • Understand the role African-American children played in the civil rights movement;
  • Analyze the impact the Little Rock Crisis had on American society;
  • Recognize the power that youth possess in society; and
  • Connect the experiences of the Little Rock Nine to their own experiences.

Essential Questions: 

  • What roles have women and children played in changes in American education?
  • What were the micro and macro effects of the actions of the Little Rock Nine?
  • Why is Daisy Bates a controversial figure in the history of Little Rock Crisis?
  • How did African-American children contribute to the larger civil rights movement?

Materials Needed: 

  • Images for the Little Rock Crisis History Walk
  • Handout: The Little Rock Crisis Graphic Organizer
  • Index cards (3x5-inch)
  • Chart paper
  • Highlighters

Central Texts

  1. Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine 
  2. Recalling Little Rock’s Segregation Battle 
  3. The Day Big Steps Were Taken at Little Rock 
  4. One of the Little Rock Nine Looks Back 
  5. Walking to Class, into the History Books 
  6. “Central High: 20 Years Later,” video from NBC Learn 

Learning Activities

Part 1: Word Work
In this activity, you will use a graphic organizer/word web to help you learn and remember some new words that are in the NPR stories you will read and hear. Seven words have been preselected from the text: resistance, forefront, inevitable, tradition, torture, micro and macro. Write each word in a circle at the center of a 3x5-inch card. Divide the card into four areas around the word. Label the top areas “Definition” and “Characteristics.” Label the bottom areas “Example” and “Non-Example.” Working on your own or with a partner, fill in cards for each of the seven words, and for any other words you find in the text that you don’t know.

Word Webs

Before reading today’s primary source, you will need to be familiar with the words and concepts that will help you better understand what you read.

Save the cards as part of a collection of word cards you can revisit to help you remember the new words you are learning when we listen to the NPR interviews.

Part 2: Close and Critical Reading 

  1. (Note: After the students have created their word webs, proceed to the main activity: listening to the NPR interviews and following the printed transcript. Divide the class into five equal groups for a jigsaw reading/listening task.) Once in your groups, select one person from each group to collect the graphic organizer, chart paper and highlighters from the front of the room. This person will be responsible for returning all materials at the end of the activity.  
  2. Choose a different group member to select your interview. This person will also disseminate the transcript for the interview they selected to their group. Each group must listen to a different interview.
  3. Listen to your interview, and use your highlighter to identify the following participants in the NPR interviews: Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Minnijean Brown Trickey, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Dr. Terrance Roberts, Melba Patillo Beals, Annie Abrams, Elizabeth Jackoway, Dr. Sybil Jordan Hampton, Cyrus Bahrassa and Governor Mike Beebe.
  4. Highlight two types of passages about each person: (1) those that express personal thoughts about Daisy Bates and her leadership and (2) memories or thoughts about the Little Rock Nine’s experiences integrating Central High School. You may number highlighted passages with a “1” or “2.” You will share these with your classmates (Note: The interview participants are scattered throughout the interviews.)
  5. Replay the interview for clarity, if needed.
  6. At the conclusion of your interview, as a group, answer the following clarifying questions: 
    • Who was interviewed?
    • What aspect of the Little Rock Crisis did the interview recall?
    • What was the main point of the story?
    • What were the interviewees’ thoughts about Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine?
  7. Fill in the portion of your graphic organizer that can be completed from your interview. Summarize each category in one sentence. Do not write in the space reserved for the people who are not in your interview. You will get this information from your classmates.
  8. On your chart paper, select a different group member to record the names of the preselected interviewees from your interview, along with the two sentences you wrote about them from your graphic organizer. Repeat this for all of the identified individuals from your interview.
  9. Record your group answers to the clarifying questions on your chart paper.
  10. The remaining group members, if there are any, will present the information you wrote on the chart paper to your classmates. It is important that their presentation is well planned, clear in its delivery of the content and concisely written.
  11. After each group has completed its presentation, complete the portions of the graphic organizer which pertain to its interview. (Note: This information should already be recorded on chart paper.)
  12. Once all groups have presented, have your selected group member return all materials to the teacher.

Part 3: Community Inquiry
The Little Rock Crisis was impactful largely because of the emergence of television. For the first time, Americans did not just hear rumors or read about the evils of segregation but saw it with their own eyes. Once you have analyzed images and listened to interviews, watch the “Central High: 20 Years Later,” and discuss it as a class at its completion. Facilitate a discussion about the issues at the heart of the conflict in Little Rock. How did watching the events in real time alter your perception of the magnitude of the Little Rock Crisis, school integration and the courage of the Little Rock Nine? Did people’s perception change? Why or why not? Do you think television changed the American public’s perception of school integration and Jim Crow segregation?

Part 4: Write to the Source
Using your graphic organizer as supporting evidence, write a one-page essay about the importance of children’s activism. What role have children played in changing history? Why is it important for society to listen to the voices of its children? What impact did the Little Rock Nine making their voices known have on American history? 

Part 5: Do Something
Elizabeth Eckford still resides in Little Rock. Compose a letter to her, thanking her for the contribution her sacrifices have made to history. How did Elizabeth Eckford’s courage shape the world in which you live? 

Common Core State Standards (English Language Arts Standards)

CCSS: R.1, R.2, R.3, R.4, R.10, W.1, W.2, W.3, W.4, W.9, SL.1, SL.2, SL.3, SL.4, L.1, L.2, L.3

Extension Activity: 

Select one of the Little Rock Nine and research his or her life after 1957. What was life like after the year that made the Little Rock Nine famous? What type of life has he or she led? Where is he or she now?