Photographer's Note

I'm not posting this out of any real photographic merit, but as is my style, historical merit abounds. This is a shot of Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. A typical high school building of the 1920s, it still stands in continuous use, largely due to its central role in one of the great dramas of the American Civil Rights movement, the Little Rock Nine school integration.

In 1954, the US Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling called Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The ruling reversed decades of 'Jim Crow' - black/white segregation - laws in the US by stating that separate school facilities for black and white students violated to Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and was therefore unconstitutional. While many southern districts complied immediately with the ruling, many others did not.

Little Rock was actually a rather progressive community in terms of its race relations, and the school board planned to slowly desegregate, starting with the high school and working its way down. Nine top academic African American students were chosen to be the first to be enrolled at Central High. There was backlash from the community, however, and the Governor of the state - a moderate named Orval Faubus - realized his re-election chances were quite small unless he played to the more conservative, pro-segregation factions in his state's electorate. He decided to take a stand at Central High, and deployed the state National Guard to 'keep order', with orders to admit only white students to the school.

Eight of the nine black enrolled students met at a pre-arranged location that day, and were turned away. The ninth had missed the call arranging the meetup, and she arrived alone to face an angry white mob who shouted epithets at her, threatened her, and harassed her as she walked right down the street pictured here. Eventually a woman in the crowd escorted her away, but Elizabeth Eckford was scarred by the experience for life.

Eventually, US President Eisenhower deployed the 101st Airborne to Little Rock to enforce segregation. The students were admitted, and though they did face constant harassment in school, they also had a deep impact on the Little Rock community and on the nation's race relations. Little Rock was one of the earliest battles in the Civil Right movement, which would end with the successful destruction of Jim Crow in the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the protection of voting rights in the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Tomorrow I'll post a shot of the statue to the Little Rock Nine on the grounds of - you guessed it - the Arkansas State Capitol.

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Additional Photos by Andrew Lipsett (ACL1978) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 884 W: 75 N: 1695] (7511)
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