2015 Lincoln Leadership Prize Recipients
The Little Rock Nine
On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, declaring unconstitutional any and all laws, which established or maintained segregation in schools. In 1957, in response to the ruling, nine black students, working with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), registered to attend Little Rock Central High School. Dubbed The Little Rock Nine, they were denied entry to the school by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus who ordered the Arkansas National Guard deployed to deny the students' access. Ultimately, The Nine were escorted into the school by the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division as ordered by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The students regularly encountered abuse and persecution at the hands of whites, but in the end enforced their civil rights taking a stand for justice and equality. The Little Rock Nine have gone on to live lives dedicated to the proposition that racist ideology will not dictate educational policies and practices now or in the future. The Little Rock Nine are: Dr. Melba Pattillo Beals, Ms. Elizabeth Eckford, Ms. Gloria Ray Karlmark, Mr. Ernest Green, Ms. Carlotta Walls LaNier, Dr. Terrence J. Roberts, Mr. Jefferson Thomas, Ms. Minnijean Brown Trickey and Ms. Thelma Mothershed Wair. Together they promote and support The Little Rock Nine Foundation, which advances the ideals of justice and equal opportunity for all. Their many honors include the NAACP's Spingarn Medal (1957), The Congressional Gold Medal of Honor (1999), a commemorative U.S. postage stamp (2005) and a commemorative 50th anniversary one-dollar coin issued by the U.S. Mint (2007). For a lifetime of service in the Lincoln tradition, the courageous and groundbreaking Little Rock Nine are named the 2015 Lincoln Leadership Prize recipients.