Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Little Rock, Arkansas: Little Rock Central High School

At one point in the fall of 1957, this probably was the most famous high school in America - for all the wrong reasons. Little Rock Central became something of a battleground in the fight for civil rights.

Before 1957, the school was considered one of the best in the nation. A 1955 graduate was Brooks Robinson, the Hall of Fame baseball player. The Supreme Court had ordered the integration of our schools a few years previous to Little Rock Central's time of fame. But portions of the South were in no hurry to follow that order.

When some African Americans tried to enter the school as students, they were stopped at the door by the Arkansas National Guard through orders from Gov. Orval Faubus. Federal troops eventually were called in, and the streets around the school turned into chaos. Television cameras filmed all of it and showed it to the rest of the nation, bringing the situation home to millions in a way that wouldn't have been possible 10 years before. The troops stayed for the rest of the school year, and the school later was closed for a while, but eventually integration took place. We really were a nation of laws after all.

The school is still beautiful and huge - it holds 2,500 students. We asked a couple of kids who were outside the school after classes if they had gotten used to studying in a historic place. They said yes. Visitors can't go inside, but they can visit a National Park Service site on a nearby corner. The story of those nine children is told in a variety of ways. This certainly is an odd "tourist attraction," but we should remember what happened on these streets and grounds.

Here's a video look back, compiled for the 50th anniversary of the event:


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