LR Culture Vulture turns 7

The Little Rock Culture Vulture debuted on Saturday, October 1, 2011, to kick off Arts & Humanities Month.

The first feature was on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, which was kicking off its 2011-2012 season that evening.  The program consisted of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, Rossini’s, Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers, Puccini’s Chrysanthemums and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.  In addition to the orchestra musicians, there was an organ on stage for this concert.

Since then, there have been 10,107 persons/places/things “tagged” in the blog.  This is the 3,773rd entry. (The symmetry to the number is purely coincidental–or is it?)  It has been viewed over 288,600 times, and over 400 readers have made comments.  It is apparently also a reference on Wikipedia.

The most popular pieces have been about Little Rock history and about people in Little Rock.

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The American Revolution in Arkansas

Because Arkansas was part of the Louisiana Territory, and under the Spanish flag, one does not think about there being any Revolutionary War battles being fought on Arkansas soil.

But on April 17, 1783, the British and Spanish skirmished at Arkansas Post.  Sometimes known as Colbert’s Raid, this was part of a four year campaign of intermittent efforts by the British to stop the Spaniards from funneling money and supplies to the colonists via the Mississippi River.

James Colbert, a former British Army captain, led a loose group of British mercenaries as well as anti-Spanish members of the Chickasaw tribe on a series of raids in Louisiana and the lower Mississippi area.  He targeted Fort Carlos at Arkansas Post because of its proximity to the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers.

The Fort had 33 Spanish soldiers and four members of the Quapaw tribe.  Colbert had over 80 men with him.  After an initial attack on the Post, several residents made it to the Fort which was then attacked.  Expecting surrender (and indeed there had been a brief truce), instead a Spanish sortie of 14 faced the 82. Shouting Quapaw war cries and firing their muskets, under the cover of darkness, this sortie surprised and confused the Colbert party.  Convinced that a large collection of Quapaw was attacking them, they scattered and retreated.

Today, the National Park Service at Arkansas Post offers information on this battle, one of the last of the Revolutionary War (and a full 18 months after Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown).

Scenes from Elizabeth Eckford bench groundbreaking

On May 17, 2018, Elizabeth Eckford joined with representatives of the National Park Service, Little Rock School District, Bullock Temple CME, and many other organizations to break the ground for a commemorative bench.

This bench is a reproduction of the one on which Ms. Eckford sat so famously on the morning of September 4, 1957.

The bench will be built over the summer and installed in September 2018.

Here are some scenes from the ceremony.

Elizabeth Eckford visits with Central High School Principal Nancy Rousseau.

David Kilton of the National Park Service speaks at the ceremony.

Attendees spilled out of the tent and lined the street for the event.

Ms. Eckford speaks to the crowd.

Ms. Eckford is joined by Central High students in breaking ground.

 

Groundbreaking today for Elizabeth Eckford commemorative bench project

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site is collaborating with the Central High Memory Project students and additional partners for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Elizabeth Eckford Commemorative Bench on May 17, 2018.  It will take place at 4:30 this afternoon at the corner of Park and 16th Streets.

The date for this groundbreaking was chosen to be on the 64th anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board decision.  It was that decision which paved the way for Little Rock Central High School to be a pivotal location in the Civil Rights struggle.

September 4, 1957, was supposed to be the first day of school for the African American students who were selected to integrate Little Rock Central High School.  Due to the mobs gathered outside of the school and interference from Governor Orval Faubus, the students would not get in the school that day.

The most famous images from that day are the photos of Elizabeth Eckford walking in front of the school, only to be rebuffed by soldiers and tormented by the crowds. Elizabeth’s decision to walk through the mob of protesting segregationists to enter school, only to be turned away became world news. The story of the desegregation of Central High School was thrust into a defining role within the Civil Rights Movement. Elizabeth’s efforts to overcome the fear and uncertainty that she faced that morning resulted in her seeking refuge at a lonely bus stop bench.

In order to highlight this aspect of the story and create more personal connections with this turning point in history for students and visitors, the National Park Service and the Central High Memory Project Student Team will work with community partners in a new public history project.  The Bench Project includes building a replica of the bus stop bench, creating a mobile app for the students’ audio walking tour of eyewitness accounts of that first day of desegregation, and developing a storycorps recording booth for interviews and student podcasts.

The partnership includes: Bullock Temple C.M.E., Central High School and their EAST LAB, the Little Rock School District, the City of Little Rock, Central Arkansas Library System’s Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Good Earth Garden Center, Friends of Central High Museum Inc., Home Depot, Little Rock Club 99 and other Rotary International Clubs,  Pam Brown Courtney and Willis Courtney M. D., the Clinton School of Public Service, Unity in the Community, and others.

The groundbreaking ceremony will be held at the corner of Park and 16th Street starting at 4:30 p.m. The program will include remarks by the NPS Superintendent and the directors of some of the partnering organizations regarding the projects that will be completed in connection with this effort. The Central High Memory Project Student Team will be on hand to meet the public and share details about their work.

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.

Black History Month Spotlight – Central High School National Historic Site

Little Rock 2011 036The 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, Central High School was at the center of international attention when Gov. Orval E. Faubus ordered the National Guard to prevent nine black students from attending. President Dwight D. Eisenhower later federalized the National Guard and sent in federal troops to escort the students to class. The school became a crucial battleground in the struggle for civil rights. Dramatic media images of the conflict seared themselves into public memory.

The Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site and Visitor Center opened in September 2007 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the school’s desegregation. The interactive displays include interviews with the Little Rock Nine and historic video clips. The Center presents a broad view of civil and human rights struggles in the United States and around the world. Central High School is the only functioning high school in the United States to be located within the boundary of a national historic site.

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.

National Park Service Director, Local Leaders to Speak at Black History Month Town Hall Meeting

Feb 2 NPS eventLittle Rock Central High School National Historic Site in partnership with Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center and the City of Little Rock, invite the public to join them for a Black History Month Town Hall Meeting entitled Arkansas’s Past-N-Motion to be held at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center at 5:30pm on February 2, 2016.

National Park Service Agency Director Jonathan Jarvis will serve as the guest speaker, and will discuss the National Parks Centennial Celebration, his tour to several of our nation’s civil rights-related historic sites and parks, and the importance of the National Park Service’s role in preserving and sharing our country’s history for future generations.  After his remarks, a panel discussion with local individuals will discuss several local institutions, and their roles and recent initiatives in preserving and sharing our city’s African American history, and its unique place in our nation’s civil rights movement.  This discussion will feature State Senator Joyce Elliott as moderator, and feature local panelists: Constance Sarto, Member, Mayor’s Tourism Commission; Dr. John Kirk – Director, UALR Institute on Race and Ethnicity; and Charles Stewart, Chairman, Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.

This Town Hall Meeting will highlight the resources of Civil Right institutions both from a national and local perspective, and the role of the National Park Service as the nation’s storyteller as it prepares to embark upon its Centennial 100th Birthday celebration on August 25, 2016.

During Director Jarvis’ time in Arkansas, he plans to visit Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, engage Youth Leadership Academy members from Central High School as well as elementary students around the new White House youth initiative to get all 4th graders and their families to experience the places that are home to our country’s natural treasures, rich history, and vibrant culture FREE OF CHARGE! His visit to Arkansas will mark the start of Director Jarvis’ month-long endeavor to promote Civil Rights Sites during Black History Month.

They have also created the hashtag #ARPastNMotion to encourage local community groups to share information regarding any upcoming events relating to Black History Month.

For more information, please contact Enimini Ekong at (501) 396-3006 or Enimini_Ekong@nps.gov, or visit www.LittleRock.com/NPS.

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site is located at 2120 Daisy L. Gatson Bates Drive, diagonally across the street from Central High School. The visitor center is open from 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Sunday.  Admission is free. For more information call (501) 374-1957 or email chsc_visitor_center@nps.gov.