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Before Little Rock: Successful Arkansas School Integration

9/15/2007, Law School Courtroom WATR 240

The speakers and guests at the Fayetteville integration event
The speakers and guests at the Fayetteville integration event

Because the Little Rock Central High School Integration Crisis grabbed the national spotlight in 1957, most Arkansans are unaware of the positive strides taken toward integration in Arkansas before 1957. The University of Arkansas Libraries hosted a series of three events collectively titled "Before Little Rock: Successful Arkansas School Integration" to remind us of these historic moments. The events focused on the successful integration of the UA Schools of Law and Medicine in 1948, the 1954 integration of Fayetteville and Charleston public schools (the first public school integration below the Mason-Dixon Line), and the 1955 integration of Hoxie public schools.

Pioneering in the Professions: Integrating the University of Arkansas Schools of Law and Medicine recalled the integration of the Law and Medical Schools in 1948. Calvin Smith, retired professor of history at Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, moderated a panel of George W. B. Haley and Christopher C. Mercer, two of the six African-American "pioneers" who attended the UA School of Law, and Edith Irby Jones, the first African-American to be admitted to the UA School of Medicine in Little Rock in 1948. The Libraries partnered with the UA School of Law for the event which was held in the UA Law School Courtroom (Room 240) on Wednesday, September 12, at 3:30 p.m. A reception followed in the Six Pioneers Room and foyer.

"Right in the Sight of God": Integrating Hoxie & Charleston Public Schools" introduced the integration of Charleston and Hoxie schools, and consisted of a screening of the documentary films Hoxie: The First Stand (PBS Documentary, 2003), 1 hour, and Doing What Was Right (TeleVision for Arkansas, 2004), 30 minutes. A question and answer session followed the screenings. Gerald Jordan, UA associate professor of journalism, introduced the films in Giffels Auditorium in Old Main on Thursday, September 13, at 7:00 p.m. A welcoming reception preceded the event at 6:00 p.m.

Quick and Quiet: Integrating the Fayetteville Public Schools commemorated the integration of Fayetteville High School in 1954. Historian Andrew Brill led a panel of seven participants in the Fayetteville integration, Feriba McNair, a Fayetteville High School physical education teacher in 1954 and later a member of the Fayetteville School Board; Harry Vandergriff, the Fayetteville High School football coach in 1954 and later principal and school administrator; Peggy Taylor Lewis, one of seven African-American students to integrate in 1954 and one of two to graduate in 1956 (the first graduates from a formerly segregated school in the entire South); Roberta Lackey Morgan, another of the seven African-American students to integrate; Nancy Cole Mays, Glenn Sowder, and Springdale mayor Jerry Van Hoose, members of the first integrated class. The event was held in the Fayetteville High School Auditorium on Saturday, September 15, at 6:00 p.m. A greeting and reception began at 6:00 p.m. with the program following at 7:00 p.m.

— Click Thumbnail to enlarge —

Dr. Edith Irby Jones, the first black student admitted to the University of Arkansas School of Medicine in 1948. George Haley, one of the Law School&aposs Six Pioneers, speaks with Dean Cynthia Nance of the Law School. George Haley, one of the Law School&quots Six Pioneers, speaks with Dean Cynthia Nance and Judith Kilpatrick of the Law School. Myra Romain, attorney, and Dr. Edith Irby Jones. Tom Dillard, head of Special Collections and co-chair of the Before Little Rock events, and Prof. Calvin Smith, moderator of Integrating the Professions panel. Tom Dillard, Gerald Jordan, and Jack Hill. All three participated in the Thursday evening film screenings. Jack Hill, producer and director of the film <i>Doing What Was Right</i>, speaks with a guest at the reception of the film night event. Lora Lennertz-Jetton, Tim Nutt, and Diane Worrell at the reception for the film night event. A view of the reception for the film night event. A view of the reception for the film night event. Tom Dillard and Gerald Jordan enjoy a light moment following the film night event. Jerre Van Hoose, mayor of Springdale and a member of the Fayetteville panel. Springdale mayor Jerre Van Hoose, Frank Sharp, and Feriba McNair at the Fayetteville integration event. Mayor of Fayetteville Dan Coody speaks at the Fayetteville integration event. Members of the panel discussion for the Fayetteville integration event.  From left to right: Feriba McNair, Glenn Sowder, Nancy Cole Mays, Harry Vandergriff, Roberta Lackey Morgan, Jerre Van Hoose, and Peggy Taylor Lewis. The reception at the Fayetteville integration event, held at the Fayetteville High School Auditorium. Peggy Taylor Lewis chats at the reception before the Fayetteville integration event. The speakers and guests at the Fayetteville integration event. Christopher C. Mercer speaks at the Pioneering in the Professions event at the Law School. Cynthia Nance, dean of the Law School, greets George Haley, one of the Six Pioneers of the Law School. Before Little Rock logo

Last updated: September 27, 2011

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