Little Rock Central High School: Fifty Years Later
Posted by UCSB Library on April 19, 2010
The fight for the desegregation of schools, which in 1957, involved a federalized Arkansas National Guard, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower sending in the 101st Airborne Division is currently being depicted in an exhibit in the Ethnic & Gender Studies Library of the Davidson Library.
“One of the most famous and historical cases of desegregation is the story of the Little Rock Nine.” Events were set in motion with the unanimous Supreme Court decision; Brown v Board of Education in 1954. A timeline format is used to illustrate the turbulence of the times and necessary measures taken at state and federal government levels in efforts to achieve desegregation in secondary education in the state of Arkansas. The crisis at Little Rock must be “considered to be one of the most important events in the African American Civil Rights Movement.” Also included is information about the high school building, from construction, to its dedication as a National Historic Landmark. The exhibit offers context for the range of emotions and the enduring signifigance of the building.
The 2007 anniversary was marked by the production of an award winning HBO documentary looking back at that troubled time through fifty years. Fortunately, Santa Barbara had two public forums related to these events in March and April 2010. Featured guest, Dr. Gloria Willingham, who enrolled in Central High in 1960 “received a less hostile reception than the “Little Rock Nine” had three years earlier.” Dr. Willingham facilitated discussion following a screening of “Little Rock Central High School: Fifty Years Later” co-sponsored by seven local community organizations. As a practitioner of community engagement she called on participants to identify and reflect on issues in our local schools that parallel those seen in the film. Issues such as classroom de facto racial segregation, equity in student learning opportunities, and parental involvement in the educational processes and more were discussed. A Mighty Long Way was authored by Carlotta Walls LaNier of the Little Rock Nine. She holds “the nation’s highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal and serves as president of the Little Rock Nine Foundation; a scholarship organization dedicated to ensuring equal access to education for African Americans.” Ms. LaNier was the guest of Conversations for the Common Good for a presentation and book signing.
(quotes from press releases for Little Rock Central High School: Fifty Years Later screening and discussion; and “Little Rock Nine: The Inspiring True Story of Carlotta LaNier” presentation and book signing”)
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