University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

55 Years Ago Today: The Little Rock Nine’s First Full School Day

In The View from the OEP on September 25, 2012 at 3:25 pm

September 25th 1957 is a date that might not often be covered in history classes in places like Pennsylvania…or Colorado…or Oregon…but it surely has significance here in Arkansas. On this day, 55 years ago, under federal troop escort, nine African American students, dubbed the “Little Rock Nine,” were escorted  into Central High School for their first full day of classes. One of the nine students, Melba Pattillo, later wrote, “After three full days inside Central, I know that integration is a much bigger word than I thought.”

Today does not mark the anniversary of the fist day the Little Rock Nine entered Central High – but it does mark their first full day of school. Click here to witch a silent video of the students being escorted into the school.

More information on the Little Rock Nine can be found on the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture website dedicated to the event.

What may be seen by some as a scar in Arkansas’ history actually has turned into a wonderful teaching moment. Even the placement of the memorial is significant, situated on the North side of the Arkansas Capitol, the statuettes are visible from the Governor’s office…perhaps to serve as a reminder to all Arkansas Governors what impact their decisions may have.

Interestingly enough, according to Demographic data from the 2011-2012 academic year, Central High in Little Rock now boasts an enrollment of 2,419 students…over half (54%) of whom are African American. Moreover, two-thirds (67%) of the the Little Rock School District’s 24,049 student enrollment is African American. In fact, the Little Rock school District is still under court supervision as the district seeks a balanced racial makeup among the students enrolled in the district.

Regardless, those initial steps made by nine African American students into Central High School in 1957 are a good reminder and precedent that we should not deny a quality education to any student who walks through the schoolhouse doors. We are seeing some evidence of success in Arkansas’ schools with students from various cultural, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds in our annual OEP Awards. In fact, this diversity likely adds to the overall cultural and social education of Arkansas’ students. As such, it seems pertinent to recall, and be thankful for an event, such as the one that happened on this day 55 years ago, to keep us grounded moving forward into the future.

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