Following its decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the Court formulated a decree to affect the decision. Specifically, the Court required that the defendants "make a prompt and reasonable start toward full compliance" with the Court's order and to end segregation in the public schools "with all deliberate speed."
Three days after the Court's opinion in Brown, the Little Rock District School Board in Little Rock, Arkansas, began preparing a comprehensive plan for the complete desegregation of the school system.
At the same time, however, various state authorities, including the state legislature and governor, were actively pursuing means to perpetuate racial segregation in the Arkansas public school system. For example, in 1957, the School Board and the Superintendent of Schools continued with preparations to carry out the first stage of the desegregation program with the admission of nine African American students to Central High School. The day before the students were to enter the school, the Governor of Arkansas dispatched units of the Arkansas National Guard to the school and placed it "off limits" to African American students. When the nine African American students attempted to enter the high school two days later, the Arkansas National Guard forcibly prevented them from entering the building. The Arkansas National Guard continued to do so every day for the next three weeks.
The federal government, through the United States Attorney and the Attorney General, filed a motion in federal court to stop the governor and the Arkansas National Guard from interfering with the nine students' attendance. A federal district court granted the motion, and the Arkansas National Guard was withdrawn from the school. Subsequently, the President of the United States dispatched federal troops to Central High School to ensure that the nine students would be admitted safely to school.
Because of the hostility, caused in large part by the acts of state authorities, the School Board and Superintendent sought postponement of the desegregation plan for two-and-a-half years. The district court granted their motion. The Court of Appeals reversed.