Saturday, September 25th marked the commemoration of the desegregation of Little Rock Central — when the Little Rock Nine became the first Black students to attend Central for a full day of classes after earlier attempts that September. For weeks prior, these nine students had been denied entry by armed National Guardsmen under the orders of then Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, a segregationist. Images of the Little Rock Nine being screamed at, assaulted, and spat on made news around the world. But, on that day, in the face of angry white segregationist mobs, troops from the 101st Airborne were sent to our school by President Eisenhower to escort the students in. The soldiers remained stationed there for the rest of the school year to accompany these brave children. The children did not know then that they would become American trailblazers.
That day in 1957 was the culmination of years of legal battles and civil rights struggles so that Black students could learn alongside their white peers and be afforded the same education that had been withheld from them for centuries. This moment in time also reflected the hard work before and foreshadowed the struggles to come, both inside and outside Central’s walls — the battles we continue to encounter today. Sixty-four years have passed and we’re still fighting for educational equity; it’s sad and tragic. Many of my students would not have stood a chance to access these educational opportunities had the Little Rock Nine not blazed a trail before them.
On the Learn from History coalition launch call earlier this month, we all learned about what the coalition would do to provide the educational resources, thought partnership, and clarity of conversation with parents, students, and educators as they encounter rampant misinformation about what is being taught in schools. I spoke about how all too often they fear being vilified or bullied in some way when they are simply trying to do their jobs: teach the true stories of those like the Little Rock Nine. We also learned how the coalition prepared toolkits for parents and educators like myself, to ensure that we understand how we can create safe spaces for responsible, essential conversations about the importance of fact-based history in our schools. Since that evening, many Learn from History supporters have shared stories about educators, young and experienced, who have braved fines, termination, lawsuits, and, in some cases, threats and violence by extremists, simply for daring to teach accurate history.
But these fights aren’t won overnight and that’s why I’m asking you to keep sharing your stories.