Little Rock plans for anniversary of Central High desegregation crisis
Plans for commemorating the 60th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High School were announced by Little Rock officials Wednesday morning.
The series of events, under the name “Reflections of Progress,” will look back on the events of September 1957 and the work that led up to the school’s integration. Current students unveiled an anniversary logo featuring the school’s facade at a news conference in front of the school’s reflecting pool.
Little Rock Central High School became internationally known in 1957, when nine black students integrated the school. Until then, segregation laws barred black students from Central.
The commemoration will include a sculpture dedication, a concert, film screenings and a book signing for a memoir written by one of the Little Rock Nine. Dates and times for events will be announced later this summer.
Jodi Morris, chief of education and interpretation for the national historic site that includes the high school and its visitor center, said the events will go beyond just remembering the basics.
“We’ll continue to have events throughout the year, marking particular anniversaries and events that happened and also shining a light on some of the stories people may not know and parts of the events that might not get as much recognition or publicity or aren’t shown in the history books,” Morris said.
That includes programs that examine the integration of sports and the role of the soldiers who escorted the school’s first nine black students.
“This was a really important event in military history, and people often don’t think this really set a precedent for how military forces would be used,” she said. “We’d love to get more veterans from the Arkansas National Guard and 101st Airborne to come back and share their oral histories with us, and so it’s really an effort to kind of invite them to come back, let them know we want to hear their stories also.”
Eight of the Little Rock Nine are still alive, with Jefferson Thomas dying in 2010.
“We’re so fortunate to have the others with us and actively participating in the planning of this and being part of it,” Morris said.
In 2007, the Central’s lawn held seating for 5,000 people commemorating the 50th anniversary of integration.
“I know that we have visitors that literally come from all over the world, every single day,” Morris said.
City Manager Bruce Moore (from left) applauds Wednesday as Little Rock Central High School students Tarvoais Carroll, 18, and Breyona Butler, 17, unveil the logo for this year’s commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the integration of the school.