Black History Month Spotlight – Freedom Riders and Sit-In Demonstrators

UALR Trail Sit inThe 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.

The Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail was launched in 2011 by the UALR’s Institute on Race and Ethnicity.  Each year, a theme is chosen to honor a particular group of people who were active in Arkansas’s civil rights movement.  Year by year, the trail grows.  The plan is that over time the trail will stretch from the current starting point at the Old State House, down West Markham Street and President Clinton Avenue to the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, and then back up the other side of the street to opposite the Old State House.

Freedom Riders and Sit-In Demonstrators

In 1961, the Freedom Rides spread across the South to place pressure on local communities and the federal government to implement court-ordered desegregation of bus terminal facilities.  Little Rock’s first Freedom Riders, a contingent of five members of the St. Louis branch of the Congress of Racial Equality, arrived on the evening of July 10 at the Mid-West Trailways bus station at Markham and Louisiana.  A plaque there marks the site and tells the story of the Little Rock Freedom Rides.  The pressure exerted by the Freedom Rides, together with an Interstate Commerce Commission order to desegregate, led to the integration of all Little Rock’s bus terminals on November 1, 1961.  Five markers also commemorate Philander Smith College students involved in sit-in demonstrations between 1960 and 1962, as well as members of the Arkansas Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee.  SNCC was active in Arkansas from 1962 to 1967.

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.