Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


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Central to Creativity – Nancy Rousseau

Though not a graduate of Little Rock Central High School, Nancy Rousseau is a Central High Tiger through and through.

She has been principal of Little Rock Central High School since the summer of 2002. Born in New York, she graduated high school in Tenafly, New Jersey.  After attending Ohio University, she graduated from Adelphi University with a degree in English education.  Her first job was teaching in Port Washington, NY, where she won the “New Teacher of the Year” award.  After teaching in Midwest City, Oklahoma, she arrived in Little Rock in 1976.

From 1976 until 1986, she taught English at Pulaski Academy.  After receiving her master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, she was hired by the Little Rock School District as an Assistant Principal at Central High School.  From 1991 until 1998, she served in that capacity. During that time, she worked on the planning for the 40th anniversary of the integration of Central High by the Little Rock Nine.

In 1998, she became principal of Pulaski Heights Junior High School.  She led the school’s transition from a junior high to a middle school.  When the position of Central High School principal became open in 2002, she applied for the job.

Since returning to Central as its principal, Mrs. Rousseau has been a very visible champion of the school, its students, faculty and alumni.  She served as co-chair for the Central High Integration 50th Anniversary Commission.  During her tenure, the school’s physical plant has been upgrade and much of the historic façade and interior has been restored.  A Central High Alumni Association and a Tiger Foundation have been formed.  Through their effort, the arts, academics and athletics have been enhanced.

Mrs. Rousseau also participated in the planning for the 60th anniversary of the school’s integration.  She is one of a very few who worked on the 40th, 50th and 60th anniversaries.

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Little Rock Look Back: Little Rock Nine in Central for a few hours

centralentranceOn Monday, September 23, 1957, the Little Rock Nine entered Central High School for a few hours.

The previous Friday, Federal District Judge Ronald Davies ruled that Governor Faubus had used the National Guard to keep the Little Rock Nine out of the school.  At this point, the Governor withdrew the troops.  The duty of maintaining any order on the site and ensuring the safety of the students now fell solely on the Little Rock Police Department.

To minimize interactions with aggressive protestors who were outside of the school, the Nine were escorted into the side of the school.  Word quickly spread that they had made it into the building.  This caused the 1,000 or more people out front to become more hostile.

Threats were called into the building. Some parents of white children called wanting to get their students out of the building.  Some students snuck out of the building, while at the same time some of the crowd were trying to sneak in.  The situation was tense and getting more so by the minute.

Little Rock Mayor Woodrow Mann and police leadership were concerned about the ability of the City to protect the Nine and maintain order.  The Fire Department refused to use water from a firehose to disperse the crowd.

For the safety of the Little Rock Nine the students were removed from the building after having been in it only a few hours.

 


Little Rock Look Back: Louis Armstrong speaks out

As the Civil Rights movement started taking hold in the mid-1950s, many African American entertainers were vocal in their support.  Louis Armstrong stayed silent.  Until, that is, September 17, 1957.

That night, in Grand Forks, North Dakota, Armstrong blasted President Dwight Eisenhower for his lack of action to make Governor Orval Faubus obey the law.  This was in an interview conducted by a 21 year old University of North Dakota journalism student named Larry Lubenow.

Journalist David Margolick wrote about the incident in The New York Times in September 2007 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High School.  He recounted how the story, written for the Grand Forks Herald, was picked up all over the country.  The entire Margolick piece can be read here.  Margolick tells that when Armstrong was given the chance to back off the comments, he asserted that he meant all of it.

On September 24, 1957, the night that the 101st Airborne was being mobilized to come into Little Rock, Armstrong sent Eisenhower a telegram again criticizing him for lack of action.  He used colorful language which sarcastically spoofed the “Uncle Tom” moniker which some of his critics had bestowed when they felt he was not doing enough for Civil Rights.  The Eisenhower Presidential Library has a copy of that telegram.  The incident between Satchmo and Ike was the basis for two different plays: Terry Teachout’s Satchmo at the Waldorf and Ishmael Reed’s The C Above C Above High C.


Little Rock Look Back: Minnijean Brown Trickey

On September 11, 1941, Minnijean Brown was born.

Although all of the Nine experienced verbal and physical harassment during their year at Central, Brown was first suspended, and then expelled for retaliating against the daily torment. She moved to New York and lived with Drs. Kenneth B. and Mamie Clark, the African American psychologists whose social science findings played a critical role in the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case.

After graduating from the New Lincoln School in 1959, Mrs. Brown Trickey studied journalism at Southern Illinois University.  She received a Bachelor of Social Work in Native Human Services from Laurentian University and Master of Social Work at Carleton University, in Ontario Canada.

Mrs. Brown Trickey has pursued a career committed to peacemaking, environmental issues, developing youth leadership and social justice advocacy.  She served in the Clinton Administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Workforce Diversity at the Department of the Interior.   She has taught social work at Carleton University and community colleges in Canada.

Mrs. Brown Trickey is the recipient of numerous awards for her community work for social justice, including Lifetime Achievement Tribute by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, and the International Wolf Award for contributions to racial harmony.  With the Little Rock Nine, she received the NAACP Spingarn Medal and the Congressional Gold Medal.

She is the subject of a documentary, Journey to Little Rock: the Untold Story of Minnijean Brown Trickey, which has received critical acclaim in international film festivals in Africa, the UK, the U.S., South America and Canada.  She was featured in People Magazine, Newsweek, the Ottawa Citizen, the BBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp, Donahue, as well as on numerous other television, radio and in print media.  She appeared with the Little Rock Nine on Oprah and the Today Show.

Mrs. Brown Trickey currently resides in Canada, and is the Shipley Visiting Writer for Heritage Studies at Arkansas State University. She is the mother of six children, Morning Star, Isaiah, Sol, Ethan, Spirit and Leila Trickey.


LR Look Back: A Photo Seen Around the World

Will Counts (American, Little Rock, 1931 – 2001, Evansville, Illinois), It was not the plan for Elizabeth Eckford to walk along toward Central High, 1957 (printed 1997), gelatin silver print, 25 x 32 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of the artist, Bloomington, Indiana. 1997.039.007

On September 4, 1957, the students known as the Little Rock Nine made their first attempt to enter all-white Little Rock Central High School.  This was the second day of the 1957-58 school year in Little Rock.  Over the preceding Labor Day weekend, it had been decided that the African American students would wait until the second day of school to officially start at Central.

As is now well known, NAACP leader Daisy Bates was not able to notify one of the students about meeting as a group of the Bates house.  That one student, Elizabeth Eckford, approached the school by herself and quickly realized the National Guard members surrounding the school were not their to protect her, but to ban her and the others.

Arkansas Democrat photographer Will Counts captured Eckford’s quiet determination in the face of the guards and the taunting crowds.  His photo of a white student screaming at Eckford was picked up by media outlets worldwide. It became not only a symbol for the Central High integration crisis, but for the Civil Rights movement.  Counts’ photo was the jury’s choice for the Pulitzer Prize in Photography in 1958. But the jury was overruled by the Pulitzer board, with no explanation given.

A copy of this photo is now on display at the Arkansas Arts Center.  In 1997, Counts gave the Arts Center several prints from his collection that were taken during the time period of August 1957 through September 1959.  The exhibit is on display through October 22.

 


Little Rock Look Back: And the Oscar goes to…”Nine from Little Rock”

AMPAS Nine from LROn April 5, 1965, the Academy Award for Best Documentary, Short Subject went to the film “Nine from Little Rock.”

Narrated by Jefferson Thomas, Charles Guggenheim’s documentary looks at the nine African-American students who enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Thomas, one of the students reflects on the state of race relations in the seven years that had elapsed (up to 1964).  The film also focuses on Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford and Thelma Mothershed.

Guggenheim both directed and co-wrote the film. The latter credit was shared with Shelby Storck, who also produced the film.   The film had been commissioned by George Stevens, Jr., for the United State Information Agency.

The Oscar that night was Guggenheim’s first of four.  His others would be for: 1968’s “Robert Kennedy Remembered” (Live Action Short), 1989’s “The Johnstown Flood” (Documentary Short) and 1994’s “A Time for Justice” (Documentary Short).  His son Davis Guggenheim won the Oscar for Documentary, Feature for An Inconvenient Truth.

The film was digitally restored by the Motion Picture Preservation Lab for the 50th anniversary of its win for Best Short Documentary at the 1965 Academy Awards.  It is available for purchase on DVD and can also be viewed in its entirety on YouTube


Black History Month – Louis Armstrong and Robinson Center

louis-armstrong3Louis Armstrong played Robinson Auditorium several times during his career.  He also played other venues in Little Rock.

As the Civil Rights movement started taking hold in the mid-1950s, many African American entertainers were vocal in their support.  Armstrong stayed silent.  Until, that is, September 17, 1957.  That night, in Grand Forks, North Dakota, he blasted President Dwight Eisenhower for his lack of action to make Governor Orval Faubus obey the law.  This was in an interview conducted by a 21 year old University of North Dakota journalism student named Larry Lubenow.

Journalist David Margolick wrote about the incident in The New York Times in September 2007 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High School.  He recounted how the story, written for the Grand Forks Herald, was picked up all over the country.  The entire Margolick piece can be read here.  Margolick tells that when Armstrong was given the chance to back off the comments, he asserted that he meant all of it.

On September 24, 1957, the night that the 101st Airborne was being mobilized to come into Little Rock, Armstrong sent Eisenhower a telegram again criticizing him for lack of action.  He used colorful language which sarcastically spoofed the “Uncle Tom” moniker which some of his critics had bestowed when they felt he was not doing enough for Civil Rights.  The Eisenhower Presidential Library has a copy of that telegram.  The incident between Satchmo and Ike was the basis for two different plays: Terry Teachout’s Satchmo at the Waldorf and Ishmael Reed’s The C Above C Above High C.

Armstrong would again play a part in Little Rock’s Civil Rights history.  In September 1966, he played the first major concert in Robinson Auditorium that was before a fully integrated audience.  Since the early 1960s, there had been a few sporadic concerts which had been before integrated audiences. But the policy of the Auditorium Commission remained that the building was to be segregated.  Following the approval of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, public facilities had to be integrated. Louis Armstrong played before a full house at Robinson Auditorium that night.  With Orval Faubus still Arkansas’ governor, Armstrong was not too interested in staying in Little Rock very long. He left town quickly after the concert was concluded.