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About this collection

The Mildred Grossman collection contains photographs of the Little Rock Nine, the first African American students to attend an integrated school in Arkansas in 1957. The Little Rock Nine enrolled in Little Rock Central High in September, 1957, as part of the initiative to desegregate Southern schools. While attending Little Rock Central, the students were subjected to discrimination, harassment, and violence by their white classmates, and became a paradigm of African-Americans’ struggle for equality.

Grossman photographed the students during their trip to New York City in the summer of 1958, where they met with union leaders, diplomats, and elected officials who wished to honor them for their courage and achievements.   The New York Hotel Workers’ Union flew the Little Rock Nine students to New York to pay tribute to their heroism in advancing civil rights by presenting them with the Better Race Relations Award.  The photographs also show the students as they visit the Statue of Liberty, the United Nations Headquarters, City Hall, the Local 6 Civil Rights Award Ceremony, and the Coney Island theme parks.  Grossman’s Little Rock Nine photographs illustrate an important chapter in American history, chronicling the experiences of the union leaders, politicians, and Little Rock students who, at such young ages, had a profound effect on the African American Civil Rights Movement.

Mildred Grossman was an influential photographer, teacher, trade unionist, and civil rights activist. Born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1916, she spent much of her life campaigning for the eradication of poverty, tenants’ rights, and workers’ rights. During the 1940s and early 1950s, Grossman worked as a teacher in the New York Public Schools and as a staff photographer for the New York Teachers Union. She was fired from her teaching job in 1954 due to suspected Communist involvement, and began working as a freelance photographer for the New York Hotel Trades Council in 1955. Grossman’s firing did not curtail her activism, and in 1972, she and 33 teachers dismissed due to presumed Communist activities successfully sued the New York State Board of Education for reinstatement. Grossman continued her work as a union activist, photographer, and teacher until her death in 1988.


This digital collection is comprised of Grossman’s photographic prints of the Little Rock Nine. Please note that the Mildred Grossman collection includes over 900 negatives of the Little Rock Nine trip to New York in 1958.  In addition to these photographs, UMBC Special Collections houses an extensive compilation of Mildred Grossman's personal papers, thousands of other photographic prints and negatives, and ephemera. For more information about the Grossman collection, visit the Albin O. Kuhn Library's Mildred Grossman papers finding aid, or contact UMBC Special Collections.


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Related Works:

Mildred Grossman papers finding aid

Eye of the storm : the photographs by Mildred Grossman from the photography collections

A mighty long way : my journey to justice at Little Rock Central High School ‎

Warriors don't cry : a searing memoir of the battle to integrate Little Rock's Central High

Lessons from Little Rock

Hotel Workers’ Union online exhibit, The Little Rock Nine


Credit:  We would like to thank Special Collections intern Melissa Lohrey for creating the digital collection of Mildred Grossman's Little Rock Nine photographs.  Melissa vounteered her time and expertise,  undertaking the entire project from digitization to metadata to presentation: research, rehousing, scanning, describing, uploading, and providing contextual information.

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