Lit­tle Rock plans for an­niver­sary of Cen­tral High de­seg­re­ga­tion cri­sis

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - RACHEL HERZOG

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.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/STATON BREIDENTHAL

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.

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