Fifty years ago, the doors of Little Rock’s Central High School became gates of change, when on September 4, 1957, nine African American students came to school for class — for the first time. Turned away by Arkansas National Guard soldiers under orders from the Governor, the students finally entered safely three weeks later when the President of the United States sent the 101st Airborne to enforce the Supreme Court’s desegregation rulings.
The historic events of the integration of Central High School and the re- opening of all of Little Rock’s schools a year after the governor closed them are quintessential women’s history. Women’s bold actions made both events possible.
Civil Rights activist, Daisy Bates, gave the nine students (two boys and seven girls) the information, encouragement, and support they needed to enroll in Central High School. When the governor resorted to closing the schools in Little Rock to prevent integration, it was the women of the “Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools” who with daring courage organized the effort to open the schools and in so doing changed themselves and the community.
One of this year’s Honorees, Minnijean Brown Trickey, was only sixteen years old when she became involved in the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School. Along with eight other black teenagers who defied death threats, hostile white demonstrators, and even the Arkansas National Guard to attend the all-white Central High School in 1957. Rising above the adversity, they took a courageous step that not only changed their lives and education but the lives and educations of African Americans around the country.
African American history is essential to American History and needs to be merged in the telling of the story. Until that time, we need to use this important focal celebration of Black History Month to inform and expand our society's knowledge of African American history.
WARRIORS DON’T CRY: Drawn from her diary, the author writes a riveting account of her experience integrating Central High School.
THE LONG SHADOW OF LITTLE ROCK: A MEMOIR BY DAISY BATES: Daisy Bates guided and advised the nine students, known as the Little Rock Nine, when they attempted to enroll at Little Rock Central High School in 1957.
THE GIANTS WORE WHITE GLOVES video: When racism closed the schools in Little Rock, a group of respectable, middle-class white women were faced with the prospect of no schools as well as the further loss of their city’s good name. They turned militant and changed themselves and he community in the process.
Celebrating Black History Month Resources.
Celebrating 50 Years of Integration: The Memory Project. Central High students today are collecting the personal stories of family and neighbors who lived through historic and current civil rights struggles, not only at Central but across Arkansas, America, and the world. Students are creating this website, The Little Rock Central High Civil Rights Memory Project, to serve as a permanent online resource for students, teachers, historians and the families of those who share their stories. It is the hope of Central's students that this website-and these personal narratives-can open a door into history and encourage students today to continue the process of change in race relations and civil rights in their own lives and communities. The Memory Project.
Voices from the Days of Slavery
The Library of Congress's American Folklife Center online collection: Voices from the Days of Slavery: Former Slaves Tell Their Stories, available at Library's American Memory.
Standing on My Sisters' Shoulder. An award-winning documentary about courageous women in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement. Check out www.sisters-shoulders.org for additional information.