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Eyes on the Prize
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Southern Schools Opposing Integration

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A crowd of teenage boys protest against school integration and wave Confederate flags in Montgomery, Alabama, 1963.

In the 1954 legal decision Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court declared segregated classrooms were illegal, but the ruling was vague about how and when schools had to be integrated. "With all deliberate speed" was the order. As a result, any plan to desegregate schools at the elementary, secondary, or collegiate level was met with criticism from both sides -- those that wanted a faster response and those who would rather delay. Segregated schools affected by the ruling were in many southern states, including Alabama, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. A common stance of the politicians who resisted integration, like Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas, who sought to bar African American students from attending Central High School in Little Rock, was that they were merely defending states' rights. When desegregation began, many black students found mobs protesting outside their integrated schools, and other schools chose to close rather than integrate.

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