May 21st, 2018
After having breakfast at the retreat center we are staying in, our Civil Rights Immersion Team headed to Little Rock Central High School. This high school is a beautiful gothic revival architectural design (I have included a picture of it in this post). The high school was constructed in 1927 at the cost of $1.5 million, the budget was established for the construction of two high schools: an all-white high school and a black high school but of course this construction took most of the money.
Little Rock High School was the first high school to be integrated, a fight that 9 brave African American children took so that today, we could have the right to attend any school regardless of skin color. Although, that previous sentence summarizes what we see today, I must mention and we must not forget, that these kids put not only their lives at risk but their entire families and the lives of those who supported and aided them during this fight. At this time the Jim Crow laws were approximately 80 years old, not only in the south but throughout the United States for example in CA there were segregated schools for whites, blacks, and Mexicans.
Only 9 African American children were accepted into Central high school, since the system made it very difficult for blacks to get into the school. These students would also have to follow strict rules: straight A’s, not allowed to participate in any extracurricular activities (sports, clubs, school dances, etc.), and they were not allowed to retaliate against anything that was done to them by whites. Their names and home addresses appear on newspaper and radio, this made them much more vulnerable to acts of terrorism by the angry white mob.
The first day of school, none of the 9 kids showed up due to deadly threats imposed, that would remain throughout their year there. The second day they all showed up and were harassed severely, Elizabeth was one of the African American girls who arrived to the school by herself, while the other 8 arrived together. The National Guard was sent so that these students would not get inside of the school, the media was present and served as protection, the local police was also there for protection and escorted the 9 students. However, once inside the school there was no protection. The first day that the black students entered the school the white students exit the school and one girl jumped out of the second floor window as a form of protest.
Every morning there was a chance for these 9 kids to be killed, the police tried to make a deal with the crowed and the deal was simple: “just give us one of the students to lynch.” (ABSOLUTELY HIDEOUS!!!). As these students attended school they would be terrorized by their classmates some examples include: pushing them, spitting on them, pouring their hot lunch all over them, placing broken glass in their gym showers, tacks on their sits, even making permits that would allow white students to kick “each Central high school negro once per day until expiration date” (May 29,1958).
One of the African American girls was expelled because of two incidents: the first was when two white boys smashed her legs with the chairs in the school cafeteria and she accidentally on purpose spilled her lunch on two them. The second incident that cause her expulsion was when two white girls were walking behind her trying to attack her when she turned and said, “do not touch me you pieces of white trash.” (SNAPS). After she was expelled the white students made notes that read “ONE DOWN… EIGHT TO GO.”
One last comment about today since my reflection is already really long… The tour guide mentioned how this month there will be the 60th high school reunion for the class of one of these students and how he has not attended a single one of the reunions… And WOW, I can only imagine the conscience of this class who did not stand up for justice as well as the traumatic experience of these nine black courageous students who stood up for the right to equal education we experience today and will be experience by the many future generations of students to come.