Black History Month Spotlight – Sue Cowan Williams Library

sue_cowan_williamsThe new Arkansas Civil Rights History Audio Tour was launched in November 2015. Produced by the City of Little Rock and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock allows the many places and stories of the City’s Civil Rights history to come to life an interactive tour.  This month, during Black History Month, the Culture Vulture looks at some of the stops on this tour which focus on African American history.

In 1945, Sue Cowan Williams successfully sued the Little Rock School District for equal pay for black and white teachers. The existing inequality in pay clearly did not meet the stipulation of “separate but equal” treatment of African Americans required by the law.

Williams was chair of the English Department at Dunbar High School. She had attended Spelman College in Atlanta, Talladega College in Alabama, and the University of Chicago. These impressive credentials made her an ideal standard bearer for the suit. Local lawyers, along with the NAACP’s Thurgood Marshall, successfully appealed Williams’ case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. In the meantime, however, Williams’ contract was not renewed at Dunbar.

After working several other jobs, she was eventually rehired in 1952. She remained at Dunbar until her retirement in 1974. Williams died in 1994. In 1997, the tenth library in the Central Arkansas Library System was dedicated as the Sue Cowan Williams Library in her honor.

The app, funded by a generous grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council, was a collaboration among UALR’s Institute on Race and Ethnicity, the City of Little Rock, the Mayor’s Tourism Commission, and KUAR, UALR’s public radio station, with assistance from the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.