We stopped here for a couple of hours on Thursday, April 7, 2016.
The integration of Little Rock Central High School in the fall of 1957 was a landmark battle in the struggle for civil rights. Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site preserves and interprets the school’s role in the development of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. (from National Historic Site Sticker)
From its dedication in 1927, Little Rock Senior High School (its name was changed to Little Rock Central High School in 1953.) was recognized as more than a typical American school. The massive structure, a handsome blend of Art Deco and Gothic Revival styles, was named by the American Institute of Architects "America’s Most Beautiful High School.” Central High was celebrated for its size (100 classrooms; capacity for more than 2,000 students; huge auditorium and stage) and for its academic excellence. The school also served as a civic center in Little Rock, hosting concerts, plays, and other events. It was a focus of community pride and a cultural symbol—perhaps one of the reasons so many fought so fiercely against change at the school. (from the National Park Service Brochure)
Tom took this picture of the main entrance of the school and today standing across from this structure it is still impressive. We did not make reservations for a tour of the school and since is still an operating high school we could only walk by the outside. According to the website it is a 4-year public high school with approximately 2,500 students. In the 1950’s it included grades 10 through 12 and had approximately 1,800 students.
|Central High Commemorative Garden|
The Little Rock crisis occurred in the infancy of TV and was among the first news stories filmed as events unfolded. The Magnolia Mobil service station near the school became an impromptu press base from which reporters called in their stories. (from National Park brochure)
The Visitor Center had a lot of information to take in about this time in the history of our country. There are pictures and information stations to hear what people felt during this time about what was going on including The Little Rock Nine. Newspaper articles (one showing a comparison of how Arkansas saw what was going on and the rest of the nation), time lines, diary pages, quotes, and information about the Supreme Court decisions. (I am sure I am not listing everything.)
I am going to mostly let the pictures that follow speak for themselves. You should be able to click on the pictures and enlarge them if you wish to read what is there. (Though it may not all be real clear most of should be readable.)
|On the wall outside the entrance to Visitor Center|
from parking area.
Governor Faubus spurred by other southern politicians and his own constituents to take a stand against desegregation, insisted that in Brown v. Board the Supreme Court had overstepped its constitutional authority. He invoked what he called constitutionally guaranteed states’ rights to back his use of the National Guard to bar African American students from Central High. By so doing he directly challenged the federal government.
President Eisenhower although not an aggressive enforcer of civil rights, believed deeply in the rule of law, the Constitution, and the appropriate use of military force. When Governor Faubus used armed guardsmen to defy a ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court, Eisenhower had no choice but to back constitutionally granted judicial and executive authority. He was the first president since Reconstruction to use federal troops to enforce civil rights. (from the National Park Service Brochure)
“The only assurance I can give you is that the Federal Constitution will be upheld by me by every legal means at my command.” --President Dwight Eisenhower, in telegram to Governor Faubus
The following pictures are some close ups of various sections of this wall.
“Any time it takes 11,500 soldiers to assure nine Negro children their constitutional rights in a democratic society, I can’t be happy.” (Daisy L. Gatson Bates, President of the state chapter of the NAACP)
Panels from above wall. I wish I would have done something like this with each of the displays.
|"It not us, then who?|
If not now, then when?"
John Lewis, former Freedom Rider
There was so much information in this place it is impossible to include it all here. (I struggled putting this post together in the end I included what we took from this place.) It is not only a sad part of our history but a sad part of an ongoing struggle that continues in our country today. We are glad we took the time to visit this place. Walking through the visitor center, looking at the pictures, reading what was in the displays, listening to the nine tell some of their story, and others, both black and white, talk about their feelings about this time was a wake up call we think most of America could use no mater the color of their skin. The movement now seems to be lets get rid of anything unpleasant in our history instead of facing it and saying this was wrong or that was wrong, learning, and changing. Instead so many are trying to bury it like it never happened or blaming everything that happens today on the past. We cannot change any of our history we can only go forward and change the future.