Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



First Advisor

James Findlay


This thesis is an historical study of the racially charged context in which public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas were 'desegregated' between 1954 and 1964. The author first examines the Supreme Court's landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), in which racially segregated public schools were declared unconstitutional. The central focus of the study, however, is on the paternalistic and unequal nature of southern race relations and their impact on the desegregation process in Little Rock, Arkansas between 1954 and 1964.

Utilizing archival manuscripts and secondary sources, the author explicitly challenges the established historical interpretation of school desegregation in Little Rock and the Little Rock crisis of 1957-1958. In those accounts, the Little Rock crisis is viewed at its core as a political/constitutional crisis that was resolved once President Eisenhower dispatched federal troops to Little Rock, paving the way for desegregation to proceed at Little Rock Central High School. The author argues that the Little Rock crisis was an extension of a much larger crisis in race relations. Black demands for equal and integrated public schools and a white refusal to grant African Americans their constitutional rights precipitated this structural crisis in race relations.



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