Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


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Little Rock Look Back: Sixty Years of the Little Rock Nine

Sixty years ago today the Little Rock Nine entered Central High School and stayed. On one hand, this brought to the end a nearly month long standoff between segregationists and those who wanted to obey the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board decision.

In the bigger picture, the struggle did not end that day.  Throughout the remainder of the school year, the Little Rock Nine were subjected to threats, isolation and hostility.  Outside of the school, while the crowds may had dispersed after September 25, the raw feelings did not subside.

This was evidenced by the fact that the following year the high schools were closed to avoid having them integrated.

But September 25, 1957, was an historic day in the United States. Under guard of members of the 101st Airborne Division of the Army, the Little Rock Nine were escorted into Central High School. This action by President Dwight Eisenhower was the result of the intrusive efforts of Governor Orval Faubus who had used the Arkansas National Guard to keep the nine students out.

The City of Little Rock was largely a bystander in this issue. The form of government was changing from Mayor-Council to City Manager in November 1957. Therefore Mayor Woodrow Mann and the entire City Council were lame ducks. Mann, whose son was a senior at Central, tried to focus on keeping the peace in Little Rock. Most (if not all) of his Council members sided with the Governor.

Congressman Brooks Hays, a Little Rock resident, had tried to broker an agreement between the President and the Governor but was unsuccessful.  Following that, Mayor Mann was in discussions with the White House about the ability of the Little Rock Police Department to maintain order.  Finally, in the interest of public safety, the President federalized the National Guard and removed them. This paved the way for the Army to come in.

Though the school year was not easy, the nine youths who became known worldwide as the Little Rock Nine were finally in school.  They were Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Pattillo, Gloria Ray, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls.

In 1997, President Bill Clinton, Governor Mike Huckabee and Mayor Jim Dailey, famously held open the doors of Central High for the Little Rock Nine on the 40th anniversary.  Ten years later, Clinton, Huckabee and Dailey returned joined by Governor Mike Beebe and Mayor Mark Stodola to host the 50th anniversary events.

Today, President Clinton was once again at Central.  This time he was joined by Governor Asa Hutchinson and Mayor Stodola.  Two people who have played parts in organizing all three of these commemorations are City Manager Bruce T. Moore and Central High Principal Nancy Rousseau.  Others, such as Skip Rutherford and Annie Abrams have participated in all three commemorations.

In light of its role in history, the school is a National Historic Site, while still functioning as a high school.

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Little Rock Look Back: Labor Day Bombings of 1959

Labor Day Bomb

ARKANSAS GAZETTE photos showing the exterior and interior of the LRSD building after the bomb blast.

On September 7, 1959, a peaceful Labor Day in Little Rock was shattered by the explosions of three dynamite bombs.

The locations were Fire Chief Gene Nalley’s driveway on Baseline Road at 10:20pm, Baldwin Company offices at Fourth and Gaines at 10:53pm (where Little Rock Mayor Werner Knoop was a partner–the company is now known as Baldwin Shell), and the School District offices at 10:58pm (then located at Eighth and Louisiana streets).

Given the three targets, it was fairly quickly assumed that there was a connection between the bombings and the lingering effects of the 1957 integration crisis. In light of that, police officers were stationed at the homes of all Little Rock City Directors and School Board members.

The investigation into the bombings turned up a purported fourth location for a bomb. That was the office of Letcher Langford. (Culture Vulture Editorializing Note:  This could have been a ploy to throw investigators off the scent. Langford was the only City Director who had been backed by segregationist candidates and had been openly hostile to the Women’s Emergency Committee — to the point of threatening them with legal action for not disclosing their membership rolls.)

Investigators determined that the bombing had been planned in late August by members of the Ku Klux Klan.  Five individuals were arrested.  They were J. D. Sims, Jesse Raymond Perry, John Taylor Coggins, Samuel Graydon Beavers, and E. A. Lauderdale.  The latter had twice been an unsuccessful candidate for the City Board of Directors.

Sims pleaded guilty and started serving a prison term later in September 1959.  Perry, Coggins and Beavers all went to trial in October and November.  Each was found guilty. Their terms ranged from three to five years.  Lauderdale was convicted, but appealed his decision. Though the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the verdict against him, he did not start serving his sentence until the court decision in February 1961.

Governor Faubus commuted the sentences of Perry, Coggins and Beavers.  All three served less than six months.  Lauderdale’s sentence was reduced by Faubus so that he, too, was eligible for release after six months.  Sims, who was first to plead, served the longest: nearly two years.

Sadly, this would not be the last bombing in Little Rock tied to 1957. In February 1960, Carlotta Walls’ house was bombed.


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Black History Month – Daisy Bates and Robinson Center

bates daisyToday is the Daisy Bates Holiday in the State of Arkansas.  So it is an appropriate day to pay tribute to Mrs. Bates, who played a leading role in the Little Rock Integration Crisis of 1957.

Daisy Lee Gatson Bates and her husband were important figures in the African American community in the capital city of Little Rock.  Realizing her intense involvement and dedication to education and school integration, Daisy was the chosen agent after nine black students were selected to attend and integrate a Little Rock High School.  Bates guided and advised the nine students, known as the Little Rock Nine, when they enrolled in 1957 at Little Rock Central High School. President Clinton presented the Little Rock Nine with the Congressional Gold Medal and spoke at the 40th anniversary of the desegregation while he was in office.

When Mrs. Bates died, a memorial service was held at Robinson Center on April 27, 2000.  Among the speakers were President Bill Clinton, Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, and Rev. Rufus K. Young, pastor of the Bethel AME Church.  Others in attendance included Lt. Gov. Winthrop Paul Rockefeller, Mayor Jim Dailey, Presidential diarist Janis Kearney, former senator and governor David Pryor, and five members of the Little Rock Nine:  Carlotta Walls Lanier, Ernest Green, Minnijean Brown Trickey, Jefferson Thomas, and Elizabeth Eckford.

It was during his remarks at the service that President Clinton announced he had asked that Bates’ south-central Little Rock home be designated as a national historic landmark.


Little Rock Look Back: The Little Rock Nine finally enter Central High

101st_Airborne_at_Little_Rock_Central_HighIt was 58 years ago today that the Little Rock Nine entered Central High School and stayed. On one hand, this brought to the end a nearly month long standoff between segregationists and those who wanted to obey the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board decision.

In the bigger picture, the struggle did not end that day.  Throughout the remainder of the school year, the Little Rock Nine were subjected to threats, isolation and hostility.  Outside of the school, while the crowds may had dispersed after September 25, the raw feelings did not subside.

This was evidenced by the fact that the following year the high schools were closed to avoid having them integrated.

But September 25, 1957, was an historic day in the United States. Under guard of members of the 101st Airborne Division of the Army, the Little Rock Nine were escorted into Central High School. This action by President Dwight Eisenhower was the result of the intrusive efforts of Governor Orval Faubus who had used the Arkansas National Guard to keep the nine students out.

The City of Little Rock was largely a bystander in this issue. The form of government was changing from Mayor-Council to City Manager in November 1957. Therefore Mayor Woodrow Mann and the entire City Council were lame ducks. Mann, whose son was a senior at Central, tried to focus on keeping the peace in Little Rock. Most (if not all) of his Council members sided with the Governor.

Congressman Brooks Hays, a Little Rock resident, had tried to broker an agreement between the President and the Governor but was unsuccessful.  Following that, Mayor Mann was in discussions with the White House about the ability of the Little Rock Police Department to maintain order.  Finally, in the interest of public safety, the President federalized the National Guard and removed them. This paved the way for the Army to come in.

Though the school year was not easy, the nine youths who became known worldwide as the Little Rock Nine were finally in school.  They were Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls.

In 1997, President Bill Clinton, Governor Mike Huckabee and Mayor Jim Dailey, famously held open the doors of Central High for the Little Rock Nine on the 40th anniversary.  Ten years later, Clinton, Huckabee and Dailey returned joined by current Governor Mike Beebe and Mayor Mark Stodola to host the 50th anniversary events.

Today the school is a National Historic Site, while still functioning as a high school.


Little Rock Look Back: 57 Years since 1957

101st_Airborne_at_Little_Rock_Central_HighIt was 57 years ago today that the Little Rock Nine entered Central High School and stayed. On one hand, this brought to the end a nearly month long standoff between segregationists and those who wanted to obey the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board decision.

In the bigger picture, the struggle did not end that day.  Throughout the remainder of the school year, the Little Rock Nine were subjected to threats, isolation and hostility.  Outside of the school, while the crowds may had dispersed after September 25, the raw feelings did not subside.

This was evidenced by the fact that the following year the high schools were closed to avoid having them integrated.

But September 25, 1957, was an historic day in the United States. Under guard of members of the 101st Airborne Division of the Army, the Little Rock Nine were escorted into Central High School. This action by President Dwight Eisenhower was the result of the intrusive efforts of Governor Orval Faubus who had used the Arkansas National Guard to keep the nine students out.

The City of Little Rock was largely a bystander in this issue. The form of government was changing from Mayor-Council to City Manager in November 1957. Therefore Mayor Woodrow Mann and the entire City Council were lame ducks. Mann, whose son was a senior at Central, tried to focus on keeping the peace in Little Rock. Most (if not all) of his Council members sided with the Governor.

Congressman Brooks Hays, a Little Rock resident, had tried to broker an agreement between the President and the Governor but was unsuccessful.  Following that, Mayor Mann was in discussions with the White House about the ability of the Little Rock Police Department to maintain order.  Finally, in the interest of public safety, the President federalized the National Guard and removed them. This paved the way for the Army to come in.

Though the school year was not easy, the nine youths who became known worldwide as the Little Rock Nine were finally in school.  They were Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls.

In 1997, President Bill Clinton, Governor Mike Huckabee and Mayor Jim Dailey, famously held open the doors of Central High for the Little Rock Nine on the 40th anniversary.  Ten years later, Clinton, Huckabee and Dailey returned joined by current Governor Mike Beebe and Mayor Mark Stodola to host the 50th anniversary events.

Today the school is a National Historic Site, while still functioning as a high school.


Little Rock Look Forward: LR 9 Foundation establishes Clinton School Scholarship

clinton-school-logoThough normally there are “Little Rock Look Back” posts, this one is truly more a look to the future.

Today the Little Rock Nine Foundation, which has awarded scholarships to deserving young people for the past 16 years, has set up a scholarship fund at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service to continue the foundation’s legacy. The Foundation was established in 1997 and since that time has awarded 60 college scholarships to high school students all over the United States.

“Because of our great appreciation for President Clinton, and in recognition of the extraordinary public service work performed by Clinton School students, we have now decided to make the Clinton School our educational philanthropic focus,” said Carlotta Walls Lanier, the foundation’s spokesperson. “The Clinton School prepares its students in the global arena and what better way to keep our story alive than through those we assist.”

Nine African American students–Lanier, Melba Pattillo Beals, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Terrence Roberts, Minnijean Brown Trickey, Thelma Mothershed Wair and the late Jefferson Thomas became known as the Little Rock Nine when they integrated  Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The resistance of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus and protests by large groups of segregations forced the intervention of President Dwight Eisenhower who the sent the military’s finest, the 102 Airborne Division, to protect the students.

It was an historical moment and was the first the time the President of the United States sent the military to enforce a United States Supreme Court order, in this case the historic Brown v. The Board of Education decision.

“We are honored and are most grateful to the Little Rock Nine for the establishment of this scholarship fund,” said Clinton School Dean Skip Rutherford. “Over the years the Little Rock Nine–as a group and individually–have participated in Clinton School programs and met with our students. Spirit Trickey, the daughter of Minnijean Brown Trickey, is one of our graduates.”

The Clinton School is the nation’s first to offer a Master of Public Service (MPS) degree. It is located on the campus of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in downtown Little Rock.


Arkansas Literary Festival This Weekend!

litfestlogoThe Arkansas Literary Festival, the premier gathering of readers and writers in Arkansas, has expanded to include over 90 authors in many locations on both sides of the river from April 18-21, 2013.

The Central Arkansas Library System’s Main Library campus, other venues in the River Markets and Argenta Arts districts are the sites for a stimulating mix of sessions, panels, special events, performances, workshops, presentations, opportunities to meet the authors, book sales, and book signings. Most events are free and open to the public.

Festival authors include:

Salma Abdelnour, David Abrams, Mary Stewart Atwell, Beth Ayer, Jenni B. Baker, Jan Barry, Carolyn Briggs, Kevin Brockmeier, Sam Calvin Brown, Oliver Burkeman, Mary Bucci Bush, Drew Cameron, Raquel Cepeda, Da Chen, Joseph Crespino, James Daily, Lela Davidson, Edmond Davis, Sylvia Day, James W. Erwin, Richard Ford, Ben Fountain, Tim Gallagher, Tim Gallagher, Paula J. Giddings, Kay Collett Goss, Jessica B. Harris, Ruth Hawkins, Roger D. Hodge, Ty Jaeger, Jay Jennings, Ben Katchor, Janis F. Kearney, Jeannette Keith, Brian and Terri Kinder, Steve Kistulentz, Christi Shannon Kline, Jon Krampner, Travis Langley, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Dorothy R. Leavell, Domingo Martinez, Ayana Mathis, Carla Killough McClafferty, Rosetta Miller-Perry, Lydia Millet, Pat Mora, Linda Murphy, Sara Nesson, Cynthia LeJeune Nobles, Harry Ostrer, Darcy Pattison, Lori Perkins, Leonard Pitts Jr., Garry Craig Powell, Padgett Powell, Joe Queenan, Karen Russell, Eric Rutkow, Courtney Miller Santo, Rosie Schaap, Martha Silano, Heather Sutherlin, Steve Teske, Chuck Thompson, Charles Todd, Caroline Todd, Duncan Tonatiuh, GB Tran, Dennis Vannatta, Frank X Walker, John Corey Whaley, Steve Wiegenstein, David Wesley Williams, Johnathon Williams, Rita Williams-Garcia, Christian Wiman, Jan Wolfe, Ron Wolfe, C.D. Wright, Steve Yates

This year’s Festival authors have won an impressive number and variety of distinguished awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Pulitzer Prize for Journalism, James Beard Foundation Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, Newbery Honor, National Book Critics Circle Award, a Coretta Scott King Honor, PEN/O.Henry Prize; Pushcart Prize; Barnes and Noble Discover Prize for Fiction, Roger Ebert’s Film Festival Thumbs Up Award, Pure Belpré Award, International Griffin Prize for Poetry, International Documentary Association Best Documentary Short, Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators, and several National Book Award Finalists. Many of the presenters’ works have been translated into multiple languages and made into films.

Special events for adults during the Festival include a cocktail reception with the authors, food, wine, and spirits workshops, films, a play, and Spoken Word LIVE!, a city-wide poetry competition. Panels and workshops will feature topics such as fiction, memoir, screenwriting, super hero psychology & law, Warrior Writers Project, erotica, and more.

Children’s special events include a storytime on the lawn of the Governor’s Mansion, a book fiesta, the artmobile, plays, outdoor activities, and Super Hero Activity Afternoon. Festival sessions for children will take place at both the new Children’s Library, 4800 10th Street, and the Youth Services Department at the Main Library, 100 Rock Street.

At Level 4, the Main Library’s teen center, teens can meet authors and illustrators, participate in ComiCALS, activities and panels such as a cosplay contest, video game tournament, a writing workshop, and zombie survival activities.

Through the Writers In The Schools (WITS) initiative, the Festival will provide presentations by several authors for Pulaski county elementary, middle, and senior high schools and area colleges.

Support for the Literary Festival is provided by sponsors including Central Arkansas Library System; Friends of Central Arkansas Libraries (FOCAL); Department of Arkansas Heritage; Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau; Fred K. Darragh Jr. Foundation; Arkansas Democrat Gazette; Mosaic Templars Cultural Center; Regions; ProSmartPrinting; MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History; Historic Arkansas Museum; Clinton Presidential Center; Hendrix-Murphy Foundation; Wright, Lindsey & Jennings LLP, Arkansas Times; Christ Church, Little Rock’s Downtown Episcopal Church; Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center; Arkansas Library Association; Henderson State University; University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service; Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre; Arkansas Governor’s Mansion; Hendrix College Creative Writing and the Hendrix-Murphy Foundation Programs in Literature & Language; Hendrix College Project Pericles Program; Hendrix College; University of Arkansas at Little Rock, English Department; University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Department of Rhetoric and Writing; Pulaski Technical College; Jewish Federation of Arkansas; Arkansas Arts Center; Power 92 Jams; Central High School National Historic Site; National Park Service; Literacy Action of Central Arkansas; Capital Hotel; Little Rock Film Festival; and LuLav. The Arkansas Literary Festival is supported in part by funds from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Author! Author!, a cocktail reception with the authors, will be Friday, April 19 at 8pm on the fifth floor of the CALS main library building.  Tickets are available at the door.

The Arkansas Literary Festival is a project of the Central Arkansas Library System. The Festival’s mission is to encourage the development of a more literate populace. A group of dedicated volunteers assists Festival Coordinator Brad Mooy with planning the Festival. Jay Jennings is the 2013 Festival Chair. Other committee chairs include Katherine Whitworth, Talent Committee; Lisa Donovan, Youth Programs; and Amy Bradley-Hole, Moderators.