Fifty years ago today, 9 black students entered formerly all-white Little Rock Central High School, marking the beginning of public school desegregation in the U.S. Although much has changed in the intervening 50 years, roughly 75 percent of African American students are in schools that are at least 50% black. Disparities in the quality of education remain: average black high school graduates are at roughly the level of eighth grade white students in math and reading ability.
It took great courage for the nine students to face a hostile, racist crowd in September 1957, and continuing harrassment during their stay in school. The U.S. Mint marked the anniversary with a commemorative silver dollar, and ceremonies are being held to honor this milestone in integration.