School Segregation and Desegregation

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Ozark Schools, Desegregation of

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision, Ozark (Franklin County), a town of around 1,800 residents in the Arkansas River Valley, announced that it would desegregate its high schools in September 1957. Previously, African American high school students in Ozark had been bused thirty-nine miles to the historically Black Lincoln High School in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). There were no plans to end segregation at the elementary level, since Ozark operated its own segregated Carver Elementary School, with eighteen Black students in attendance. Desegregating Ozark High School meant admitting three Black students along with 475 white students. The three Black students were sixteen-year-old Inola West, her eighteen-year-old brother Rayford West, and sixteen-year-old Nola …