School Desegregation

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Aaron v. Cooper

aka: Cooper v. Aaron
Aaron v. Cooper, reversed by the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court as Cooper v. Aaron, was the “other shoe dropping” after Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas declared school segregation unconstitutional but did not lay out any clear guidelines for how to proceed with desegregation. The Supreme Court’s opinion in Cooper v. Aaron sent a message to segregated school districts nationwide that the Supreme Court would not tolerate attempts to evade or obstruct integration. The intervention of the executive branch in sending federal troops to Little Rock (Pulaski County) underscored the supremacy of the federal Constitution over state law and, arguably, added to the Court’s power and prestige. For …

Act 10 of 1958 [Affidavit Law]

A special session of the Arkansas General Assembly passed Act 10 in 1958 as one of sixteen bills designed to bypass federal desegregation orders stemming from the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. The measure required state employees to list their political affiliations from the previous five years. Ostensibly, the act would root out subversives and other enemies of the state, but the underlying purpose was to expose National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) members on state payrolls so that they could be fired under Act 115, a law that forbade public employment of NAACP members. Pulaski County senator Artie Gregory designed the measure to root out subversives in the state’s educational institutions, but Governor Orval …

Act 115 of 1958 [Anti-NAACP Law]

In 1959, the Arkansas General Assembly passed Act 115 as one of sixteen bills designed to bypass federal desegregation orders stemming from the desegregation of Central High School. Act 115 outlawed state employment of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) members. Coupled with Act 10, a law designed to expose NAACP members on state payrolls by requiring state employees to list their political affiliations, Act 115 effectively punished the leaders of the desegregation effort in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Arkansas attorney general Bruce Bennett proposed the bill as part of a package of legislation that would “throw consternation into the ranks” of the NAACP, a group Bennett considered to be subversive. He hoped this package would keep …

Arkansas State Sovereignty Commission

aka: State Sovereignty Commission
The Arkansas State Sovereignty Commission (ASSC) was created in February 1957 to “protect the sovereignty of Arkansas…from encroachment by the federal government” in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas school desegregation decision and 1955 implementation order. Although given sweeping powers, the ASSC in fact met only twice, proving itself to be merely posturing over rather than actually practicing measures against the federal government. Nevertheless, the creation of the ASSC was an opening salvo in a three-year barrage of pro-segregation laws passed by successive sessions of the Arkansas General Assembly. The ASSC, modeled after the Virginia State Sovereignty Commission, was created by Act 83 of the 1957 Arkansas General Assembly. The act …

Beals, Melba Pattillo

Melba Pattillo Beals made history as a member of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students involved in the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The world watched as they braved constant intimidation and threats from those who opposed desegregation of the formerly all-white high school. She later recounted this harrowing year in her book titled Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Desegregate Little Rock’s Central High School. Melba Pattillo was born on December 7, 1941, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Beals grew up surrounded by family members who knew the importance of an education. Her mother, Lois Marie Pattillo, PhD, was one of the first black graduates of the University of …

Blossom, Virgil Tracy

Virgil Tracy Blossom was a professional educator who served as superintendent of Little Rock (Pulaski County) public schools during the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis that began in 1957. Although he was generally a progressive and effective school administrator, his leadership during the crisis proved to be ineffectual, and historians remain harsh in their assessments of his actions. Virgil T. Blossom was born on October 31, 1906, in Brookfield, Missouri, the son of George N. Blossom and Fannie M. Blossom; he had one sister. His father ran a construction business and served as the local tax collector. His mother was apparently a homemaker. Tall and broad-shouldered with a booming voice, Blossom attended public schools, excelling in athletics. He was …

Brewer, Vivion Mercer Lenon

Vivion Mercer Lenon Brewer is best known for helping to found the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC) in 1958 during the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She helped arrange the WEC’s initial meeting and served as the organization’s first chairperson until September 1960. Vivion Lenon was born on October 6, 1900, in Little Rock to Warren E. and Clara (Mercer) Lenon. She graduated from Little Rock High School (now Central High) in 1917 and attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she majored in sociology and graduated in 1921. In 1926, she enrolled in the Arkansas Law School in Little Rock and worked in her father’s bank, People’s Savings Bank, in Little …

Capital Citizens’ Council (CCC)

The Capital Citizens’ Council (CCC) was one of many similar organizations established throughout the South to resist implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 1954 decision that school segregation was contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment. Formed in 1956 from a Little Rock (Pulaski County) affiliate of the like-minded Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) group, White America Incorporated, to oppose School Superintendent Virgil Blossom’s plan for the gradual integration of Little Rock’s schools, the CCC was the most important segregationist organization during the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. The CCC combined traditional racist rhetoric about miscegenation and states’ rights diatribes with allegations of integrationist bias against working-class people. It claimed that there was an alliance between the National Association for …

Central High School Neighborhood Historic District

Made nationally famous during the 1957 desegregation crisis, Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) is surrounded by a historic neighborhood district that also bears its name. Central High is both an active high school and a museum protected under the National Park Service as a National Historic Landmark. The surrounding historical district is primarily made up of residential structures and is divided by Wright Avenue, a road historically used by trolleys. Residences in this neighborhood display primarily the Craftsman Bungalow, Tudor Revival, and Colonial Revival styles. The original district—roughly bounded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on the east, Thayer Avenue on the west, West 12th Street on the north, and Roosevelt Road on the south—was added …

Central High School, Desegregation of

aka: Crisis at Central High
aka: Little Rock Desegregation Crisis
In its 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in public education was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. As school districts across the South sought various ways to respond to the court’s ruling, Little Rock (Pulaski County) Central High School became a national and international symbol of resistance to desegregation. On May 22, 1954, the Little Rock School Board issued a statement saying that it would comply with the Court’s decision, once the court outlined the method and time frame for implementation. Meanwhile, the board directed Superintendent Virgil Blossom to formulate a plan for desegregation. In May 1955, the school board adopted the Phase Program …

Charleston Schools, Desegregation of

Much has been written about the Little Rock School District desegregation in 1957. However, the Charleston Public School District quietly and successfully integrated first through twelfth grades, without any publicity until about three weeks after school had opened for the fall term in 1954. Charleston was the first school district in the former Confederate states to integrate all twelve grades, and because of this, Charleston School District has been named a National Commemorative Site by the U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service. Following the May 17, 1954, U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas that deemed state laws mandating public school segregation unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, …

Clark, Mamie Katherine Phipps

Hot Springs (Garland County) native Mamie Phipps Clark was the first African-American woman to earn a Doctor of Philosophy degree in psychology from Columbia University. The research she did with her husband was important in the success of the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, in which the United States Supreme Court declared the doctrine of “separate but equal” with regard to education to be unconstitutional on account of such separation generating “a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community” on the part of African-American students. Mamie Phipps was born on October 18, 1917, in Hot Springs to British West Indies native Harold H. Phipps, a physician, and Kate Florence Phipps, who assisted …

Committee to Retain Our Segregated Schools (CROSS)

Formed in 1959 to bolster the segregationist cause in the aftermath of the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the Committee to Retain Our Segregated Schools (CROSS) represented one of the many political pressure groups active in the city during the late 1950s. During the so-called Lost Year of 1958–59, Little Rock’s public schools were closed by Governor Orval Faubus, foreshadowing a subtler assault on integrationists and moderates within the school system. The Arkansas General Assembly Extraordinary Session of 1958 subsequently passed Act 10, requiring teachers to sign affidavits listing their membership in all organizations. Act 115 passed by the Regular Session of 1959 called for the dismissal of any teacher who was a member of …

Counts, Will

aka: Ira Wilmer Counts
Ira Wilmer (Will) Counts Jr. was a photographer best known in Arkansas for his photographs during the 1957 desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). His photographs have been widely recognized as among the most memorable of the twentieth century. Will Counts was born on August 24, 1931, in Little Rock to Ira Counts Sr. and Jeanne Frances Adams Counts; he had one brother. The Counts family sharecropped near Rose Bud (White County) and then outside Cabot (Lonoke County) before moving in 1936 to the Resettlement Administration’s Plum Bayou Homestead in Jefferson County. When the family moved back to Little Rock, where Counts attended Little Rock High School (later Central High), he developed his initial interest in …

Davis, L. Clifford

L. Clifford Davis is an attorney whose active participation in the legal challenges of the civil rights movement began when he first sought admission to the all-white University of Arkansas School of Law. That effort was the precursor to a distinguished career in the legal profession, one that included two decades of service as a judge in the Texas court system. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2007. L. Clifford Davis was born on October 12, 1924, in Wilton (Little River County). The youngest of seven children of Augustus Davis and Dora Duckett Davis, he was raised on the family farm and received his early education in the Wilton schools. As the town’s educational offerings …

Dove v. Parham

Dove v. Parham was a federal desegregation lawsuit filed in the fall of 1959 in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas. The suit was filed by attorney George Howard Jr. on behalf of three African-American students who were denied transfer to the all-white Dollarway School District. The lawsuit would eventually reach the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The saga of Dove v. Parham began in 1954 when a member of the Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), William Dove, along with a small group of African-American citizens, requested that the Dollarway School District desegregate. The group’s request was denied. In 1957, Dove repeated his request to transfer his five …

Eckford, Elizabeth Ann

Elizabeth Ann Eckford made history as a member of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who desegregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The image of fifteen-year-old Eckford, walking alone through a screaming mob in front of Central High School, propelled the crisis into the nation’s living rooms and brought international attention to Little Rock (Pulaski County). Elizabeth Eckford was born on October 4, 1941, to Oscar and Birdie Eckford, and is one of six children. Her father worked nights as a dining car maintenance worker for the Missouri Pacific Railroad’s Little Rock station. Her mother taught at the segregated state school for blind and deaf children, instructing them in how to wash and iron for themselves. …

Fayetteville Schools, Desegregation of

Between 1954 and 1965, Fayetteville (Washington County) underwent the gradual integration of all primary and secondary schools. Though the Fayetteville School District (FSD) was quick to integrate at the high school and junior high levels, new state laws and concerns from the Fayetteville School Board slowed the speed of integration at the elementary level. In the first few weeks of its efforts, however, Fayetteville was presented in the media as the first city in the former Confederacy to desegregate its schools; Charleston (Franklin County) schools had done so earlier, but officials and residents there worked to keep it secret from the outside world for several weeks. Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education of …

Green, Ernest Gideon

Ernest Gideon Green made history as the only senior of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who, in 1957, desegregated Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The world watched as they braved constant intimidation and threats from those who opposed desegregation of the formerly all-white high school. Green’s place in Arkansas’s civil rights history was solidified when he became the first African American to graduate from the previously all-white Central High School. Ernest Green was born in Little Rock on September 22, 1941, to Lothaire and Ernest Green Sr. Green has two siblings: one brother, Scott, and one sister, Treopia Washington An active member of the community from an early age, Green regularly attended church and …

Guthridge, Amis Robert

Amis Robert Guthridge was a Little Rock (Pulaski County) attorney and businessman best known for his role in organizing resistance to school desegregation in Hoxie (Lawrence County) in 1955 and at Little Rock Central High in 1957. Though he first gained national notoriety as the lead spokesman for these anti-integration campaigns, Guthridge’s activist career began in the late 1940s when he held prominent positions in the “Dixiecrat” Party and the anti-union Arkansas Free Enterprise Association. Indeed, Guthridge’s passion for rolling back what he saw as the “socialistic” takeover unleashed by the New Deal was equal to and integral to his passion for maintaining racial segregation. Amis Guthridge was born in Hot Springs (Garland County) in 1908 to Arthur and Myrtle …

Hoxie Schools, Desegregation of

During the summer and autumn of 1955, proponents and opponents of school integration across America were watching what Cabell Phillips of the New York Times called “a battle in a test tube.” The scene of the “battle” was Hoxie (Lawrence County), a small community in the northeastern part of Arkansas. Phillips’s dispatches turned the isolated rural town into a focal point for the nation. While not the earliest instance of desegregation in the state—Fayetteville (Washington County) and Charleston (Franklin County) were peacefully integrated the previous year—Hoxie’s attempt was the first to be met with active resistance. In 1955, Hoxie, with its population of 1,855 residents, was a collection of one- and two-story structures strung along the tracks of the Missouri …

Huckaby, Elizabeth Paisley

Elizabeth Paisley Huckaby, who served as an instructor of English for thirty-nine years, was vice principal for girls at Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the desegregation of Central High School. The author of Crisis at Central High: Little Rock 1957–58, Huckaby documented events within the school as the first black students, the Little Rock Nine, were admitted. Charged with protecting the six female members of the Little Rock Nine, she earned hostility and anger from segregationists within the school and in the community. She wrote her brother in October of that first year, “Things go on peacefully at school, if enforced peace is meant. The force isn’t needed for most of the children… but for the …

Hunt, Silas Herbert

Silas Herbert Hunt was a veteran of World War II and a pioneer in the integration of higher education in Arkansas and the South. In 1948, he was admitted to the University of Arkansas School of Law, thus becoming the first African-American student admitted to the university since Reconstruction and, more importantly, the first black student to be admitted for graduate or professional studies at any all-white university in the former Confederacy. Silas Hunt was born on March 1, 1922, in Ashdown (Little River County) to Jessie Gulley Moton and R. D. Hunt. In 1936, his family moved to Texarkana (Miller County), where he attended Booker T. Washington High School; there, he received distinction as a member of the debate …

Johnson, James Douglas “Justice Jim”

James Douglas “Justice Jim” Johnson served as an Arkansas state senator and an associate justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court in the 1950s and 1960s. He was an outspoken segregationist and ran unsuccessfully against Orval Faubus for governor in 1956. In the 1966 race for Arkansas governor, he became the first Democrat since Reconstruction to lose to a Republican. Johnson helped to make school desegregation a major political issue in the state by protesting the integration of the Hoxie School District in Hoxie (Lawrence County), as well as by working to get an anti-federalist amendment added to the state constitution. Jim Johnson was born on August 20, 1924, in Crossett (Ashley County) to T. W. Johnson and Myrtle Long Johnson, …

Karlmark, Gloria Cecelia Ray

Gloria Cecelia Ray Karlmark made history as a member of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1957. The world watched as they braved constant intimidation and threats from those who opposed desegregation of the formerly all-white high school. Gloria Ray was born on September 26, 1942, in Little Rock, one of the three children of Harvey C. and Julia Miller Ray. By the time Ray entered Central High, her father was retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he had founded the Arkansas Agricultural Extension Service for Negroes, and her mother was a sociologist working for the state of Arkansas. Ray was a fifteen-year-old student at …

Labor Day Bombings of 1959

The Labor Day bombings in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1959 represented the last gasp of opposition to the desegregation of the capital city’s Central High School. Coming almost two years to the day after the Little Rock Nine’s first attempt to attend Central High, the coordinated set of explosions evinced a stark and violent reminder of the continuing racial tensions in Arkansas’s capital. The damage was limited, however, and the effort was arguably more symbolic than substantive. At the same time, the bombings highlighted the fact that, while the determined effort to resist the integration of Central High had finally been overcome—with the historic high school having opened its doors for the 1959–60 school year to a student body …

LaNier, Carlotta Walls

Carlotta Walls LaNier made history as the youngest member of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1957. The oldest of three daughters, Carlotta Walls was born on December 18, 1942, in Little Rock to Juanita and Cartelyou Walls. Her father was a brick mason and a World War II veteran, and her mother was a secretary in the Office of Public Housing. Inspired by Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger sparked the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, as well as the desire to get the best education available, Walls enrolled in Central High School as a sophomore. Some white …

Ledbetter, Mary Brown “Brownie” Williams

Mary Brown “Brownie” Williams Ledbetter was a lifelong political activist who worked in many controversial and crucial campaigns in Arkansas, as well as nationally and internationally. A catalyst in many local grassroots organizations, she exhibited a dedication to fair education and equality across racial, religious, and cultural lines. Born on April 28, 1932, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), Mary Brown Williams was the first of four children born to William H. Williams, a businessman and dairy farmer, and Helon Brown Williams. Born with brown eyes, she was nicknamed “Brownie” by her family. After her mother’s death in 1947 and her father’s death in 1950, Williams and her siblings were raised by relatives Grainger and Francis Williams, who moved into the …

Little Rock Nine

The Little Rock Nine were the nine African-American students involved in the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. Their entrance into the school in 1957 sparked a nationwide crisis when Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, in defiance of a federal court order, called out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the Nine from entering. President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded by federalizing the National Guard and sending in units of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to escort the Nine into the school on September 25, 1957. The military presence remained for the duration of the school year. Before transferring to Central, the Nine attended segregated schools for black students in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Carlotta Walls, Jefferson Thomas, and Gloria …

Lorch, Grace Lonegran

Grace Lorch, wife of Philander Smith College mathematics professor Lee Lorch, was a civil rights and labor rights activist. She is best known for lending aid to one of the Little Rock Nine during the Central High School desegregation crisis in 1957. Of Irish extraction, Grace Lonergan was born on September 26, 1903, to William and Delia Lonergan in Boston, Massachusetts. She and her brother Thomas grew up in a working-class household in which her father was a railroad worker and her mother was a homemaker. Grace Lonergan became a public school teacher at a young age. She was a member of the Boston Teachers’ Union and the Boston Central Labor Council. After she married Lee Lorch in December 1943, …

Lorch, Lee

Lee Lorch was a professor of mathematics at Philander Smith College in Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the second half of the 1950s. He and his wife, Grace Lorch, became involved in the black civil rights struggle in central Arkansas. As a lifelong leftwing activist, he also came to the attention of investigatory commissions at both the federal and state levels. Lee Lorch was born to Adolph Lorch and Florence Lorch in New York City on September 20, 1915. Lorch’s grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Germany (an old town in the Rhine River Valley is named Lorch). His mother was a school teacher until she married, and his father eventually became part owner of a small factory. Lorch had three …

Lost Year

“The Lost Year” refers to the 1958–59 school year in Little Rock (Pulaski County), when all the city’s high schools were closed in an effort to block desegregation. One year after Governor Faubus used state troops to thwart federal court mandates for desegregation by the Little Rock Nine at Central High School, in September 1958, he invoked newly passed state laws to forestall further desegregation and closed Little Rock’s four high schools: Central High, Hall High, Little Rock Technical High (a white school), and Horace Mann (a black school). A total of 3,665 students, both black and white, were denied a free public education for an entire year which, increased racial tensions and further divided the community into opposing camps. …

Mercer, Christopher Columbus, Jr.

Christopher Columbus Mercer Jr. was an advisor to Daisy Bates during the 1957 desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. As field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), his legal background helped Bates understand and respond to the flood of litigation against the NAACP. Christopher Mercer was born Castor Mercer Jr. on March 27, 1924, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), to Castor C. and Tarvell Linda Mercer; his mother soon changed his name. His father worked as a mechanic for the St. Louis Southwestern (Cotton Belt) Railroad. His mother owned a dry-cleaning business. He has one brother and one half-brother. Mercer received his AB in social services from Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal College …

Mothers’ League of Central High School

Inferior in numbers and public standing only to its sponsor, the Capital Citizens’ Council (CCC), the Mothers’ League of Central High School was the second most important segregationist organization during the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. Established in August 1957 by Merrill Taylor, a Little Rock (Pulaski County) salesman, and other members of the CCC to give their opposition to School Superintendent Virgil Blossom’s plan for the gradual integration of Little Rock schools a less strident, more “feminine” edge, the league was an inflammatory influence for two years but was never as combative and potent as its patron. The league combined traditional segregationist enthusiasm for the racial status quo, states’ rights, and anti-miscegenation initiatives with womanly concern for …

Negro Boys Industrial School Fire of 1959

aka: Wrightsville Fire of 1959
On March 5, 1959, twenty-one African-American boys burned to death inside a dormitory at an Arkansas reform school in Wrightsville (Pulaski County). The doors were locked from the outside. The fire mysteriously ignited around 4:00 a.m. on a cold, wet morning, following earlier thunderstorms in the same area of rural Pulaski County. The institution was one mile down a dirt road from the mostly black town of Wrightsville, then an unincorporated hamlet thirteen miles south of Little Rock (Pulaski County). Forty-eight children, ages thirteen to seventeen, managed to claw their way to safety by knocking out two of the window screens. Amidst the choking, blinding smoke and heat, four or five boys at a time tried to fight their way …

North Little Rock Six

The North Little Rock Six were six African-American students who attempted to desegregate North Little Rock High School on September 9, 1957. Two years earlier, the North Little Rock School Board voted to begin integrating classes at the twelfth-grade level; however, after Arkansas governor Orval E. Faubus publicly stated opposition to the integration of Little Rock Central High School and summoned the Arkansas National Guard to the school on September 2, 1957, the directors of the North Little Rock School Board put a halt to their integration plan. Seven seniors from the all-black Scipio Jones High School initially registered to attend North Little Rock High for the 1957–58 school year, but only six students attempted to enroll. They were Richard …

Ogden, Dunbar H., Jr.

Dunbar Hunt Ogden Jr. was a minister who played an important role in the effort to desegregate Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in the mid-twentieth century. His support for the Little Rock Nine was controversial, and his efforts split his congregation. Ultimately, faced with diminishing support, Ogden resigned his pastorate and left Arkansas, taking over a church in West Virginia and eventually retiring in California. Dunbar Ogden Jr. was born on August 15, 1902, in Columbus, Mississippi. One of seven children born to Dunbar H. Ogden, who was a minister, and Grace Augusta Cox Ogden, Ogden was brought up in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia. He attended Boys High School in Atlanta before going to Davidson College …

Preston, Alice L.

Alice Luberter Walker Preston was an African-American schoolteacher who was instrumental in the peaceful integration of Murfreesboro (Pike County) city schools in 1965. Over her lifetime, she left an enduring legacy in the field of education in Arkansas. Alice Luberter Walker was born on December 16, 1907, in Paraloma (Howard County), the first of two children born to Lizzie Walker and the Reverend R. W. Walker. Because there was no high school for black students in Paraloma or nearby Nashville (Howard County), her family made arrangements for her to live with a cousin, the Reverend Bennie Neal, and his family in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), and she attended Fort Smith High School. She later stayed with a cousin in Hope …

Private School Movement

aka: Segregation Academies
Beginning in the mid-1960s and continuing into the early 1970s, there was a rapid expansion in the establishment of new, non-parochial private schools across the South. This phenomenon, often called the “segregation academy” or “white academy” movement, was commonly viewed as a means for white parents to avoid having their children attend increasingly integrated public schools. Within Arkansas, the establishment of new private schools was concentrated in two areas—the Delta region and Pulaski County. Starting in the mid-1960s, both of these areas, which had the highest concentration of African Americans in the state, truly began to integrate their schools. The resulting increased level of integration provided the impetus for the start of the private school movement in Arkansas, which was …

Pruden, James Wesley, Sr.

James Wesley Pruden Sr., a Southern Baptist minister, was first chaplain and then president of the Little Rock (Pulaski County) chapter of the White Citizens’ Council during the volatile school desegregation period of 1957–58. Pruden led a campaign in the newspapers and in the streets to stop the desegregation of Central High School. Journalist Roy Reed’s analysis of Pruden is that, had it not been for the school crisis, he would have been “destined for the obscurity of a second-tier Baptist Church,” and that he was “a man whose ambition out-paced his abilities.” Wesley Pruden was the great-grandson of John Pruden, a North Carolina slaveholder. He was born near Alexander (Pulaski and Saline counties) in 1908. He moved early in …

Raney v. Board of Education

aka: Arthur Lee Raney v. Board of Education of the Gould School District
Raney v. Board of Education, a lawsuit originating in Gould (Lincoln County), was one of three cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in April and May 1968 that brought an end to so-called “freedom of choice” school desegregation plans that had gained traction in the 1960s. In the 1964–65 school year, ten years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, Gould schools were still totally segregated. The district covered an area of eighty square miles and contained 3,000 residents. Of these, 1,800 were black and 1,200 were white. Since Gould was the only town in the predominantly rural county, many of the district’s students attended school there. Gould maintained two segregated combined elementary and high …

Roberts, Terrence James

Terrence James Roberts made history as a member of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who desegregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The world watched as they braved constant intimidation and threats from those who opposed integration of the formerly all-white high school. Terrence Roberts, the eldest of seven children, was born on December 3, 1941, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to William and Margaret Roberts. His father was a World War II naval veteran who worked at the Veteran’s Administration (VA) hospital in North Little Rock (Pulaski County), and his mother ran a catering service from home. Roberts was a sophomore at Horace Mann High School when he volunteered to integrate Little Rock’s Central High …

Samuel, Irene Gaston

Irene Gaston Samuel is best known for her work with the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC) that arose in the fall of 1958 during the Little Rock desegregation crisis. Samuel served as the organization’s executive secretary until it disbanded in 1963. Later in her life, she worked as an administrative assistant for Governor (and later U.S. Senator) Dale Bumpers until she retired in 1981. Irene Gaston was born on March 21, 1915, in Van Buren (Crawford County) to Martin Luther and Grace Whitley Gaston. She grew up in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and graduated in 1931 from Little Rock Senior High School (now Central High School). After working for the state Department of Labor and in the …

Stop This Outrageous Purge (STOP)

A hastily formed organization created during the “Lost Year” of 1958–59—in which Little Rock (Pulaski County) public schools were closed in the wake of the desegregation crisis at Little Rock Central High School—Stop This Outrageous Purge (STOP) emerged as a powerful local counterweight to segregationists. The group successfully challenged the dominance of segregationists on the Little Rock School Board, and their efforts marked a turning point in the city’s desegregation controversy. In September 1958, citing the recent passage of state laws designed to avoid further integration, Governor Orval Faubus closed Little Rock’s four high schools: Central High, Hall High, Little Rock Technical High, and Horace Mann. Black and white students were thus denied public education for an entire school year. …

Terry, Adolphine Fletcher

Adolphine Fletcher Terry was a civic-minded woman from a prominent Little Rock (Pulaski County) family who used her position to improve schools and libraries, start a juvenile court system, provide affordable housing, promote the education of women and women’s rights, and challenge the racism of the Old South. Terry pushed for social change in the early years of the civil rights movement and may best be known as the leader of the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC). Adolphine Fletcher was born on November 3, 1882, in Little Rock to John Gould Fletcher and Adolphine Krause Fletcher. Her father worked in the cotton business and in banking and served terms as sheriff of Pulaski County and city mayor. …

Thomas, Jefferson Allison

Jefferson Allison Thomas made history as a member of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who desegregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The world watched as they braved constant intimidation and threats from those who opposed desegregation of the formerly all-white high school. Jefferson Thomas was born the youngest of seven children on September 19, 1942, in Little Rock to Mr. and Mrs. Ellis Thomas. Thomas was a track athlete at all-black Horace Mann High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) when he chose to volunteer to integrate all-white Central High School for the 1957–58 school year as a sophomore. The Nine were harassed daily by some white students, and Thomas’s quiet demeanor made him a …

Trickey, Minnijean Brown

Minnijean Brown Trickey made history as one of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who desegregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The world watched as they braved constant intimidation and threats from those who opposed desegregation of the formerly all-white high school. Minnijean Brown, the eldest of four children of Willie and Imogene Brown, was born on September 11, 1941, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Her mother was a homemaker and nurse’s aid during the crisis, and her father was an independent mason and landscaping contractor. She is the sister of the late Bobby Brown, who was the president of Black United Youth (BUY) in Arkansas in the late 1960s. Although all of the Nine experienced …

Van Buren Schools, Desegregation of

The desegregation of Van Buren (Crawford County) schools produced several national headlines and is one of Arkansas’s most intriguing episodes of compliance with—and defiance against—the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas school desegregation decision. In 1954, the Van Buren School District had 2,634 white students and eighty-seven African-American students. Black students attended a segregated elementary school, and after graduation they were bussed over the Arkansas River to the segregated Lincoln High School of Fort Smith (Sebastian County). After Brown, with assistance from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), nineteen parents sued for the entry of twenty-four black students into Van Buren’s white high school, the first case of its kind …

Wair, Thelma Jean Mothershed

Thelma Jean Mothershed Wair made history as a member of the Little Rock Nine, the African-American students involved in the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The world watched as they braved constant intimidation and threats from those who opposed desegregation of the formerly all-white high school. Mothershed was a junior when she entered Central. Despite the fact that she had a cardiac condition since birth, she had a near perfect record for attendance. Thelma Mothershed was born on November 29, 1940, in Bloomberg, Texas, to Arlevis Leander Mothershed and Hosanna Claire Moore Mothershed. Her father was a psychiatric aide at the Veterans Hospital, and her mother was a homemaker. She has three sisters and two brothers. …

Walker, William “Sonny”

William “Sonny” Walker was an educator and civil rights activist who went on to serve in positions in local, state, and federal government, becoming the first person of color to serve in the cabinet of a southern governor. Sonny Walker was born on December 13, 1933, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). His parents were the Reverend James David Walker and Mary Coleman Walker; they later divorced, and his father married Nettie Harris. Early influences in his life included the Boy Scouts of America, gospel choir, drama and speech organizations, and community education through social and sports activities at Merrill High School; Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff); and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. …