Black History Month Spotlight – Central High School

centralentranceThe 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 September 1957 Little Rock’s Central High School made headlines around the world in a struggle over school desegregation. In its 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the United States Supreme Court declared an end to segregated schools. Little Rock drew up a gradual plan for desegregation starting with Central High. The local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People opposed the plan on the grounds that it was too slow moving, but the federal courts upheld it. The night before the school was due to desegregate, Gov. Orval Faubus surrounded Central with National Guard soldiers. The next day, black students were denied entry.

Eventually, Faubus was persuaded to remove the soldiers. When nine black students attempted to desegregate the school, a white mob formed outside. The students were removed for their safety. Finally, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent in federal troops to desegregate the school. Even then, the ordeal of the Little Rock Nine was not over. They suffered numerous attacks inside the school. At the end of the school year Ernest Green, the only senior in the group, became the first black student to graduate from Central in May 1958.

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.