On September 23, 1957, two separate but related events happened. First, Hank Aaron of Major League Baseball gives the Milwaukee Braves the pennant with a home run. Second, nine black students who had entered Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas were forced to withdraw because of a white mob outside.
In 1957, Aaron and the Braves once again found themselves on the tails of the league leader—in this case, the St. Louis Cardinals, fired up by a 36-year old Stan Musial on the way to winning his last of seven batting titles at .351. But Milwaukee got a double dose of good news to begin August, winning ten in a row while the Cardinals lost nine straight. Catapulted into the open, the Braves quickly secured a healthy lead and overcame an attempted St. Louis rebound in September by winning another eight in a row—with win number seven clinching the pennant thanks to a game-winning, 11th-inning home run by Aaron against the Cardinals at County Stadium (on September 23, 1957).
Aaron’s first monster year secured him the league MVP award, matching his uniform number with 44 home runs while knocking in 132 runs; three other NL batters kept Aaron from winning the triple crown by hitting above his .322. (Aaron wore number 5 in his rookie year, but switched to 44 in 1955.)
On Monday, September 23, 1957, the nine students set off for the high school. They knew there would be violence so they went in the rear entrance. White mobs were there to protest because they didn’t want any Blacks in their school and the reporters were there in support of the Blacks. White mobs that were waiting for the nine students beat up black reporters because they didn’t want them near their school. When the mob heard the nine students had entered the school they went crazy. The black students left out the rear exit right when the mob came in so they wouldn’t get hurt.
To make sure that the students completed a successful day of school, President Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock. Each student had their own patroller to walk with them to school and during school, but Whites still beat them. They stabbed Melba Patillo and sprayed acid into her eyes. If it weren’t for the 101st patroller throwing water over her eyes she would have been blind for the rest of her life.
It seems almost inconceivable that these two things occurred on the same day in America. Yet the gap between what one part of the country considers commonplace and another considers outrageous continues. In Mobile, Alabama where some of the worst police abuses took place when desegregation occurred, there is de-facto segregation today, with poor (mostly black) students attending poorly funded public schools and attendance at the better funded private schools is limited to white students.
We seem to say the blacks of the country – As long as your contribution is something athletic or physical it’s fine but if you’re in the South don’t try contributing with your mind. The Republicans of today feed off this “Southern Strategy” and encourage racism at its ugliest.