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The Integration Historyof Central High School

Aparna Masalkar, Jourdan Montgomery, Paul Yanow, Julie McAnary


Why the Little Rock School District? Why Little Rock Central High School? Why now?

Is this truly the change we wish to see?

Brown vs Board of Ed.

Meet the 9 students who changed the world!

Little Rock's Central High School

The Integration of




Ernest Green graduates! LRHC's first African-American Student

The Lost Year


The Little Rock 9





Little Rock School District's Integration Plan

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 On May 17, 1954, the US Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision declaring that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional and violated the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law. This landmark ruling overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which had upheld the legality of "separate but equal" facilities for Black and white Americans. The Brown ruling stated that segregated schools were inherently unequal. The decision significantly impacted the Civil Rights Movement, as it paved the way for desegregation in housing and access to higher education and improved Black Americans' quality of life (Bunch, 2017) .

Following the graduation of the first black student at Central High School, Ernest Green, Governor Faubus and Little Rock School District worked strategically to close all public high schools in Little Rock school district as a means to stop integration despite the Supreme Court orders. The 1958-1959 school year was known as "The Lost Year" because of this. Citizens of Little Rock were asked to vote regarding the integration of High Schools and astonishingly the vote was 19,470 to 7,561 against integration. These numbers supported the closure of schools.

Carlotta & Jefferson of the Little Rock Nine graduate!

Integrated Extracurricular activities beginat Central.


Little Rock's Central High School

The Integration of




"As we see it"1979 video by Central High Students


First black student body president of Central is voted in.


Civil Rights Act of 1964

Banned segregation on the grounds of race, religion or national origin in all public places.

As We See it

Carlotta Wells-LaNier was the youngest member of the Little Rock Nine. She was 1 of the 3 members of the Little Rock Nine to return to Central High School and graduate after Governor Faubus closed all public high schools to prevent integration. She is the first black female to graduate from Central High School! "I had to have that sheet of paper.... It was an achievement. It helped change the educational system"(LaNier & Page, 2023) .

Little Rock Central High School becomes a National Historic Site

The Little Rock Nine receive Congressional Gold Medals





Little Rock's Central High School

The Integration of



Little Rock School District is now Unitary

Students created The Memory Project for incoming Freshman at Central High

Active Activism from Central High students!

Congressional Gold Medals

Little Rock Central High Students, Alumni, Teachers, and Parents Stand Against Governor Sanders' Invocation of Our SchoolStudents from Central High School respond to Govenor Sanders' LEARNS act. "This regressive measure ignores the abundance of data that shows that poor socioeconomic conditions are the biggest contributors to declining literacy rates." WRITTEN BY: Bekah Jackson (Class of 2023), Gryffyn May (Class of 2023), Addison McCuien (Class of 2024), and Ernest Quirk (Class of 2023) With Contributions from the following LRCH Students: Zaina Daaboul, Jo Dobry, Beecher De Rossitte, Maddy Douglas, Zora Key, Rhone Kuta, Ray Laster, Vienna Lewis, Bird Mosley-Sims, Kishaun Pitts, Parker Ruppel, Max Wiggins, and Melissa Xiang

Systemic racism is a global, national and local issue, underlying and amplifying many of our most critical social challenges. This section examines racial and ethnic disparities in financial, education and community indicators. Historic and current policies, practices and systems include housing policies that restrict access to people of color, employment discrimination, unequal access to financial services and capital, education systems that fail to equitably educate all students, racism in health care delivery, racial profiling and inequitable sentencing in policing and criminal justice and many others. These inequities have compounded over generations, impacting decades of family members. This is significantly illustrated by the redlining practices of the 1930s that blocked Black people and people of color from securing real estate, leaving them unable to benefit from a critical opportunity to create and transfer wealth across generations (Urban et al., 2019, pg.272). Racial and ethnic disparities impact our population of nearly 500,000 African Americans and 237,000 Latino residents in Arkansas. Arkansas is also home to more than 50,000 Asians, 31,000 Native Americans, 12,000 Pacific Islanders and 67,000 residents who have a multiracial background (Smithwick, 2019). The disparities in economic opportunities faced by Black, Latino, and other ethnic groups have resulted in elevated rates of child poverty within these communities. This issue is closely tied to factors such as residing in single-parent households, particularly those headed by females, having parent(s) facing unemployment, underemployment in low-wage occupations, or incarceration, and living in communities marked by disinvestment and schools that are ineffective or under-resourced (Smithwick, 2019) . These economic challenges, intricately linked to racial and ethnic backgrounds, contribute significantly to the achievement gap among students in Little Rock, Arkansas. Students grappling with the burdens of economic adversity stemming from the mentioned factors often face additional hurdles in their educational journey, reinforcing and exacerbating disparities in academic achievement. Addressing these systemic issues is imperative for fostering a more equitable and inclusive educational environment for all students in Little Rock.

Systematic Enquities of LRCS

Central High School Student Population Data 1988-2022

(Arkansas Department of Education, 2023)

“We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” -Chief Justice Earl Warren


At the end of the 1958 school year, the Little Rock School Board petitioned the federal court for a delay in their integration plans. The federal court granted a waiver until 1961, however, the NAACP promptly appealed the delay and won! Still, Governor Faubus closed public schools as means to halt further integration.

The Lost Year 1958-59

In August 26, 1958, the Arkansas General Assembly enacted a series of laws to impede desegregation efforts. Among these laws was:

  • Act 4, enabling the closure of any school facing racial integration threats, and
  • Act 5, permitting state funds to follow displaced students to their school of choice, whether privately or publicly funded.
During a special session of the U.S. Supreme Court in September 1958, focused on the Aaron v. Cooper petitions, the immediate integration of Little Rock Central High was mandated for September 12.Simultaneously, Governor Faubus signed into law all bills passed by the Arkansas General Assembly. This led to the closure of all four high schools in Little Rock on September 15, disrupting the education of nearly 4,000 students and affecting numerous households. Faubus's actions not only barred students from classrooms but also confined 177 teachers and administrators to the schools, where they were obligated to fulfill their contractual duties despite the absence of students, with many subsequently serving as substitutes in junior high and elementary schools.

(Gordy, 2023)

President Clinton and members of Congress honored the Little Rock Nine with a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony on November 9, 1999. Featuring: Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Echford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo-Beals, Gloria Ray, Terrence Robers, Jefferson Thomas, and Carlotta Walls.

CongressionalGold Medal

On November 30, 1982, the predominantly black Little Rock School District initiated legal proceedings against the mostly white Pulaski County Special and North Little Rock school districts and the state, aiming to establish a countywide school district as a crucial step in dismantling racial segregation. This legal challenge marked the beginning of a prolonged legal journey spanning several years. Fast forward to January 16, 1998, a significant development occurred as the Little Rock School District, in collaboration with attorney John Walker representing black students, agreed on a three-year desegregation and education plan. This plan addressed key issues, including the construction of new schools, reduced busing of black students, relaxed racial balance guidelines, the hiring of desegregation experts, college scholarships for students in predominantly black elementary schools, and an enhanced focus on teaching reading and math. However, it wasn't until September 13, 2002, that William Roy Wilson, Jr., a federal judge, declared Little Rock schools free from court supervision in nearly all aspects, emphasizing the enduring importance of tackling racial disparities in education.

John Walker & the Joshua Interventors

Offical Court Documents

The Arkansas Board of Education and LRSD Today (U.S. Census Bureau et al., 2021)

The Arkansas Board of Education's plan to return limited local control to the Little Rock School district is divisive and problematic. Failing schools, which are predominantly black and lack adequate resources, would remain under state control. The district's new plan for a new high school, the transformation of another high school, and new zoning boundaries will segregate students and communities. The state's takeover of the Little Rock School District should be questioned, and the wellbeing and success of the child should be the primary focus.

Elizabeth Eckford's image walking alone through a hostile mob in front of Central High School brought international attention to Little Rock. On September 4, 1957, she tried to enter the campus twice, only to be turned away both times by National Guardsmen under orders from Governor Faubus. She eventually boarded a city bus and went to her mother's workplace. She joined the U.S. Army and earned her G.E.D. before attending Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. In 1997, she shared the Father Joseph Biltz Award with a segregationist classmate and made speeches together during a reconciliation rally.

Elizabeth Eckford

Ernest made history in 1957 by becoming the first African-American student at Central High School. He graduated alongside eight other African-American students, making him the first to receive a diploma from the school. He went on to earn both a bachelor's and master's degree from Michigan State University and served in several high-level positions under Presidents Carter and Clinton. Today, he is Managing Director of Public Finance at Lehman Brothers in Washington, D.C. and remains an inspiration to students worldwide.

Ernest Green

Terrance Roberts

Gloria Ray Karlmark enrolled in Central High School in Arkansas at 14. She faced constant harassment due to racism and segregation, but remained determined to complete her education. Gloria graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology with a degree in Chemistry and Mathematics and went on to have an impressive career. Her story is a reminder that with determination and hard work, we can overcome any obstacle.

Thelma Mothershed Wair

Melba Pattillo Beals

Gloria Ray Karlmark

Thelma Mothershed Wair completed her junior year at an all-white high school despite daily torment from white students. She earned the necessary credits for graduation through correspondence courses and summer school. Thelma graduated from Southern Illinois University and taught home economics in East St. Louis for 28 years before retiring in 1994. She was honored as an Outstanding Role Model by the Top Ladies of Distinction.

Melba Pattillo Beals is an inspiring figure who faced daily harassment at Central High School, but never gave up. She became a warrior and finished the school year strongly. Later, Melba excelled in her studies, receiving a bachelor's degree from San Francisco State University and a graduate degree in communications from Columbia University. She worked as a reporter for NBC and wrote two books about her experiences, including Warriors Don’t Cry, which won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. Today, she is the chair of African-American History at Dominican University.

Jefferson Thomas, a former track athlete at Horace Mann High School, displayed quiet strength in the face of adversity when he became a target for bullies upon enrolling at Central as a sophomore. Despite challenges, he graduated from Central High School in 1960 and went on to earn a bachelor's degree from Wayne State University and Los Angeles State College. Serving as a dedicated accountant for the U.S. Department of Defense until his retirement in 2004, Thomas, a Vietnam veteran residing in Columbus, Ohio, received an honorary "Doctor of Humane Letters" from Ohio Dominican University in 2001. Actively engaging with the community, he is a sought-after speaker, mentor, and board member, embodying resilience and leadership at the City of Refuge Learning Academy.

Dr. Terrence Roberts, a catalyst for change, led the integration of Central High School, embarking on this journey as a sophomore at Horace Mann High School. Following school closures in 1958-59, he relocated to Los Angeles, completing his graduation in 1959. Driven by a passion for social progress, he earned a bachelor's in sociology from California State University, a master's in social welfare from UCLA in 1970, and a Ph.D. in psychology from Southern Illinois University in 1976. Actively involved on boards such as the Economic Resources Center and the Little Rock Nine Foundation, Dr. Roberts fearlessly confronted former Arkansas governor Orval Faubus on ABC's Good Morning America on May 17, 1979. In doing so, he stood against racism and the violation of public trust, inspiring a commitment to justice that transcended racial boundaries.

Jefferson Thomas

Carlotta Walls LaNier, the youngest of the Little Rock Nine, graduated from Central High School in 1960. Even in the face of adversity when graduation day approached, the moment she walked across the stage, a bomb went off in her home as a resounding threat to her task of continuing to integrate Central High. Following Central her studies at Michigan State University and the University of Northern Colorado. She founded LaNier and Company, a real estate brokerage firm, in 1977, and is actively involved in organizations such as the Urban League and NAACP. Carlotta is devoted to ensuring quality education for future generations, and as president of the Little Rock Nine Foundation, she embodies resilience, commitment to education, and equality.

Carlotta Walls LaNier

Minnijean Brown Trickey overcame suspension and expulsion, demonstrating resilience after combatting the aggression she faced at Little Rock Central High. After graduating from New Lincoln High School in 1959, she pursued higher education at Southern Illinois University, ultimately earning a master's degree from Carleton University in Canada. Minnijean is a committed peacemaker, environmentalist, and youth leader. She teaches high school students at civil rights sites, served in the Clinton Administration, and is the subject of the documentary "Journey to Little Rock." Minnijean continues to teach and lecture, and her daughter Spirit upholds the family legacy as a Park Ranger at the Central High School National Historic Site.

Minnijean Brown Trickey

"Looking Back to Look Forward"

"While schools have been segregated, they have not been integrated. Imagine, in today's public schools, an imaginary line called 'Advanced Placement' that serves not only as a divide in educational promises but also as a wedge between races. In many cases, this has become a racial boundary accepted by many and challenged by few (Renaud & Renaud, 2007)." This quote is from Brandon, a student at Little Rock High School, reflecting on school desegregation during his senior year as an AP student. These sentiments are echoed later in 2023 by Senior Jaya, who states that when instances of decline in school culture, there is a rush to blame "failing students of color" from students who are in upper-level courses (Khullar, 2023). By assigning blame to students who are already dealing with economic insecurity, racial discrimination, and interpersonal conflict, no progress is being made toward a united school. Additional classmates chime in via social media and online Tiger Newspaper comments, stating that there is a pronounced split between students at school, and it does not feel as though much else has changed since the school's integration in 1957(Khullar, 2023). As students continue this conversation, teachers even sound off, referencing concerns around the most recent news from Central High about Collegeboard's Advanced Placement African-American History course being removed from course selections at the beginning of the school year. "It is an issue of empowering people of color to recognize that our system is and has been flawed, especially concerning the rights of Black Americans, and I think that this class has frightened certain people who hold positions of power. Shockingly, this class is targeted, especially at a place like Central that is so integral in the story of 20th-century civil rights" (Baker et al., 2023).After more than 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation and 66 years since Brown v. Board of Education, it has become widely accepted that every individual in this country is entitled to certain inalienable rights and freedoms, including access to a high-quality education. Despite the so-called "Post-Obama" era and the prevalent use of buzzwords such as diversity, equity, and inclusivity, it is evident that one's race and background cannot be overlooked when considering one's skills or abilities. It is just as crucial, if not more so, than ever. Race is the delineating factor between access, opportunity, and potentially determining what one's future will look like (Urban et al., 2019, p. 297). During our group discussions this semester, we consistently encountered the impact of systems of power. This led us to ponder a fundamental question: Is it possible to create a society where every child has equal access to quality education despite socio-economic barriers and influential individuals who oppose this idea? This question pointed us to a landmark moment in history where this was on the minds of families, communities, and nine courageous students who caught it all - The Integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Let us discuss the integration of Central High, a defining moment in American history. It has influenced conversations about educational parity and racial equality across the country. However, we must ask ourselves if our nationwide efforts have brought the necessary changes for authentic educational parity. Let us delve into the matter and find out the truth.

Mr. Thomas said he tried whenever possible to avoid drawing attention."I would get out of the way," he told the Times. "I was a skinny little guy. I'd been on the track team in junior high. I could run fast. I looked at it this way: If I'd been in an all-black school and a 6-foot-1, 200-pound guy pushed me around, I wouldn't go flying into his chest. Mentally what would hurt was when little puny guys came up and slapped you in the face. You couldn't hit back. We got better experienced at getting out of the way as the year went on. You'd laugh at the fact that they ran into the wall while they were going after you" (Bernstein, 2010).

In May 1955 Little Rock School Board created a gradual desegregation plan known as the "Blossom Plan", named for the Superintendent Virgil T. Blossom. The integration plan included:

The Integration Plan for Little Rock School District

  • Integration plan to begin in 1957
  • Central High School is choosen as the first and only public school to begin integration.
  • 80 black students apply to integrate Central High School. 10 students are choosen.
  • Ultimately 9 black students begin the integration process of Central High School. They are historically called "The Little Rock 9" (LRN)

(Little Rock School District, 2010)

Due to the diversity among the student body and it's leadership - Black History Week was celebrated school-wide without any major backlash or protestations from participants. Students concluded it as a school-wide success!

School Wide Celebrations

Pamela Scott made history by becoming the first African-American 1st Vice President. This E-Board was dubbed by the national media as a "model study body for racial harmony".

Pamela Scott Wins!

Amidst the increase of African-American students, the reduction in discipline and schedule changes brought about a more harmonious student culture, demonstrating the power of diversity to unite the school and the district at large.

52% Black Student Population

(Little Rock Central High School PIX Staff, 1977)

Compared to the Black History month celebrations of 2010(Little Rock Central High School PIX Staff, 2010)

Although extracurricular activities are intergrated, according to the 1964 PIX Yearbook, there are very few students of color that choose to participate (Little Rock Central High School PIX Staff, 1964).

Ernest Green is the first Black student to receive his high school diploma at Little Rock's Central High School in May (Counts, 1958).

Compared to over 300 Little Rock Central High School graduates in the 2022 academic school year (Arkansas Department of Education, 2022).