What finally removed the Little Rock School Crisis from the international and national headlines in October 1957 was the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik 1, the first artificial earth satellite, which propelled the Soviets ahead in the Cold War space race. Radio Moscow enthusiastically charted Sputnik 1’s orbits around the earth, particularly noting its flights over Little Rock, Arkansas. The Soviets contrasted Sputnik soaring in the skies through advanced technology with, miles down below, the United States remaining locked in racial strife as armed federal soldiers sought to defend nine black students from a baying white mob. The juxtaposition was a major propaganda victory for the Soviet Union and forced the United States to think of civil rights not just as a domestic issue, but as foreign policy issue too.
By John Kirk • Oct 5, 2017