Tuesday, May 1, 2018
Little Rock Central High School NHS
When it was built in 1927 Central High School was the largest, most expensive, and architecturally beautiful high school in the United States. It’s still an impressive building by today’s standards.
Until 1957 the student population was all white. Black students went to Dunbar High School, an all black school, even though for many of them Central High was closer to their homes. After the 1954 Supreme Court ruling on the case of Brown v. Board of Education, which required the desegregation of all schools, plans were made for a limited number black students to enroll at Central High. Many of the white parents and students along with the Arkansas governor opposed integration.
On September 4, 1957 nine black students tried to enter the school and were met by jeering crowds and doors blocked by National Guard soldiers. Another attempt was made on the 20th after a federal judge ruled that barring the students was illegal. The local police, tasked with protecting the students, were quickly overwhelmed and rushed the students out of the school and into their cruisers to speed through the crowds to safety. President Eisenhower finally got involved on the 24th and sent federal troops and deputized the National Guard who protected the students for the entire school year. Four Little Rock high schools were closed for the 1958/1959 school year by order from the governor. The schools opened for the next school year after the closing was found to be unconstitutional by federal court. Today Central High has an almost 50/50 ratio of black and white students.
The visitor center has very good exhibits. Audio-video stations allow visitors to chose short video clips of old news broadcasts and recent interviews with both black and white students who attended the high school in 1957. The stations face large windows with a view of the street where the crowds had gathered. Because the school is still in use guided tours are limited to twice a day on weekdays and must be reserved in advance.
The visitor center is accessible. We did not take the school tour but it’s recommended that visitors who require an accessible entrance and the elevator include that information when making reservations.
The parking lot has long RV/bus parking spaces. Historic Site 34.73847, -92.29711