Monday, June 05, 2006

Little Rock student newspaper

Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, was the centre of one of the most important events of the American Civil Rights movement, when nine black students tried to enrol for the 1957 academic year. Initially the students were prevented from enrolling by a racist mob and the Arkansas National Guard, but eventually President Eisenhower ordered the deployment of the 101st Airborne Division to protect them, and the 'The Little Rock Nine' studied for a year at the High School, before it was closed in 1958 so as to avoid integration.

Images from the crisis are pretty famous - one in particular, of student Elizabeth Eckford, is extremely well-known (you can see it here). While looking for a copy of that photo, I came across the website of the 40th anniversary commemoration of the events of 1957, which leads (eventually) to the point of this post. I find the entire Civil Rights movement absolutely fascinating, but for obvious reasons you usually only hear the story of the African-Americans who were engaged in attempts to end segregation, not of those white Americans who lived in the South. Which is why the anniversary site is so interesting, because it includes articles from the Little Rock Central High School student newspaper, 'The Tiger', from the period of the segregation crisis.

If nothing else, the articles show that while there may have been racist mobs outside of the school, there were students who supported the process of integration. The Editor urged students to "prove that America's youth has not "gone to the dogs" that their moral, spiritual, and educational standards are not being lowered." Certainly the student-body as a whole was not overwhelmingly or completely welcoming to the nine new students, but it's interesting to read of the perspectives of white students who were intimately involved in the integration crisis, and important to remember that not all of the south at that time was racist.

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