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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Little Rock High School NHS and a rant

We stopped by Little Rock High School to learn a little bit more about racial integration and our nation's history.  We thought it would be a good introduction to our kids to learn that people are different.  The visit definitely hammered that point home!  Little Rock Central High is still a public school, but there is a National Historic Site associated with it, complete with a visitor center located kitty-corner to the school.  When the high school opened in 1927, it was listed by the American Institute of Architects as the most beautiful high school in America.  Thirty years later, in 1957 it became more famous for its role in the desegregation of public schools in America. 

The visitor center has a lot of exhibits, most of which are written for and geared toward teenagers and adults.  We read about half of them, but then the kids were antsy, so we breezed through the remainder of them.  The exhibits talk about the events that lead up to desegregation, the Little Rock Nine, and the aftermath.

A quick summary is that several court cases throughout the country led up to the Supreme Court declaring that the "separate but equal" policy of sending different races to different schools was not fair and did not treat everybody equally.  The states were moving toward integration gradually, but had found different reasons to delay combining the white and black schools.  Finally, a judge ordered integration to begin without delay.  The Little Rock Nine, nine black students who had been carefully picked, would be the first to attend Little Rock High.  The governor of Arkansas ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent black students from entering.  A federal judge ordered the National Guard removed.  The black students went to class, but then the Little Rock Police removed them from class.  President Eisenhower then ordered the Army to escort them to class and ensure their safety.  The next three years become a see-saw battle between those for and against integration.  Finally it is accepted as the way it would be.  Interestingly enough, Little Rock Central High school today is attended predominantly by black students. 

I found much of the visit interesting and informative.  I was always taught to try and evaluate people by their actions instead of their appearance. If someone does good things they're a good person.  I was put off by one of the smaller series of exhibits which focused on several other civil rights movements.  Each section of the civil rights exhibit had the slant of "white males are bad".  To me it sounded rather hypocritical, saying in effect "Judge people by their skin color (but only if they are white)".  It definitely deflated the remainder of what could have been an excellent overall visitor.  I felt  that up to that point the visitor center had done a good time building up toward the ideal that Martin Luther King Jr so eloquently said in his famous I Have a Dream speech  that others should  "not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character", but then at the end erased it all.  Can we get rid of hyphenated Americans already?  I'm sick of hearing about White-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans, Women-Americans, Male-Americans, and all of the other subclassifications of Americans out there.  Can't we all just be Americans?  Lets be Americans first.  And be proud of it!

Nearest City: Little Rock, AR
Location: 2120 Daisy L Gatson Bates Dr. Little Rock, AR  72202
Time Needed: 1 hour
Difficulty: easy
Kid Friendly: not really for young children (boredom)
Additional Info: Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site website

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