Community leaders say same problems still exist that Little Rock Nine faced in 1957

60th anniversary of Little Rock Nine's integration drawing criticism

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Preparations for Central High School's 60th Anniversary Celebration are well underway, but not everyone is excited about it.

Some are calling the event, which honors nine students and the integration of Central High School, a "slap in the face" after the district closed three minority majority schools over the summer.

They allege the celebration, hosted by the City of Little Rock, is all for show.

"As you follow the money, who really benefits from the celebrations and the commemorations of the Little Rock Nine and the sacrifices they made?" asked Dr. Anika Whitfield, an alumni of the school district and a community activist. "I would argue, it is not the children in the Little Rock School District.”

Sixty years ago, nine black high school students went up against an angry mob of segregationists and even Arkansas's own governor, all for the opportunity to get a good education.

In response, Governor Orval Faubus closed Little Rock's high schools instead of allowing black children into a previously all-white high school.

"Essentially, we are seeing the same thing happen now. They're shutting schools down in our neighborhood and then shipping or busing kids out to other areas. That's absolutely unnecessary, it's absurd, and it's a slap in the face to the Little Rock Nine,” Whitfield continued.

Six decades later and that fight still continues.

We interviewed Whitfield and retired judge, Marion Humphrey Sr. outside of Franklin Elementary School. Franklin was one of the three schools closed by the LRSD over the summer. The students, which were mostly minorities, have been sent to other schools in the district.

"We honor the Little Rock Nine by continuing the struggle they began," Humphrey said. "I think they went in there to make conditions better for generations to come. So it's important for the rest of us to pick up the mantle and continue fighting.”

That's why Whitfield, Humphrey, and others are organizing Sixty Years: Still Fighting. They are planning events to counter those planned by the city.

"We are going to lift up the truth about what happened in 1957 and 1958, and the truth about what's going on now,” Whitfield said finally.

Judge Wendell Griffen on his blog said that public schools have been on a "path toward re-segregation." He alleges that this has been happening for decades because of "overt and covert schemes, practices, and policies driven by white supremacy."

Griffen said he and others wouldn't "pay lip service" to the city's event because he said Education Commissioner Johnny Key have "apparently agreed" to sell the Garland Elementary School building to a charter school group with connections to the Walton Family Foundation.

"We will not pay lip service to 'Reflections on Progress' when students in Paul Lawrence Dunbar Magnet Middle School -- where each of the Little Rock 9 attended junior high school -- are now threatened with loss of their gifted and talented classes and instructors," Griffen said in his blog post.

Superintendent Michael Poore and Education Commissioner Johnny Key, who is actually one of the speakers for the week-long event, both said they weren't available for interview Monday.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment