SOUTHERN CIVIL RIGHTS HISTORY TOUR MAY 2021
Day 2 — Little Rock
When we signed up online for the Park Service Tour of the National Historic Site at Little Rock Central High School we didn’t expect to be moved to tears. Then Rebecca, a young Park Service guide with a historian’s depth of knowledge and unafraid to be passionate about racial injustice and inequality gave us a two-hour talk and tour. The talk started with the arrival of the first enslaved human beings in 1619, touched on the story of Jefferson with 200 slaves, who freed only the ones that he had fathered. She included the 13th 14th and 15th amendments and Lincoln’s offer to not sign the Emancipation Proclamation if the Confederate states would return and — spoiler alert — they said “no”. She also made the historic connection to George Floyd’s murder. As we stood in front of the school building at the end of the tour, with her voice rising in anger, Rebecca held up a copy of a highlighted short paragraph from the Central High AP History textbook — the only reference to the history of Little Rock Nine being taught to students in the school where it happened.
A few more powerful snapshots of history from the talk;
-one of the students Ernest Green, became the first African American to graduate from Central High. He was only given tickets for four guests while everyone else got eight. He gave one of his to Daisy Bates, the NAACP leader in Little Rock and she gave her ticket to Dr. King, who attended the graduation;
-at the smaller underfunded — separate and unequal -black high school in Little Rock there was a home economics class where Afro American girls were taught how to be maids
In an emotional moment, during the account of Grace Lorch protecting Elizabeth Eckford from the menacing mob of bigots, Lori raised her hand and while fighting back tears, said that Grace was her aunt. Stunned, Rebecca, walked over, gave Lori a hug, and said “we need to talk later”. They did.
Here is a clip from a moment later on the tour, at the bus stop bench across from the school, where the incident took place. The bench was recreated with the support of students from Little Rock Central High.
The Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock is closed for Covid but glad we checked out the building and had lunch in the open area below.
Off to Memphis, Stax Records, Sun Studio and of course . . . Graceland.