Sculpture commemorates 1957 desegregation at Arkansas school

A sculpture illustrating the incomplete progress in the push for educational equality will go on display next month outside Little Rock Central High School to commemorate the 60th anniversary of its historic desegregation, officials announced Wednesday.

The statue, titled “United,” features two people raising their arms and holding two large rings that don’t quite interlock. Officials say the image demonstrates the work still to be done toward guaranteeing educational rights for students of diverse backgrounds.

Nine students, known as the “Little Rock Nine,” were escorted into the formerly all-white school by 101st Airborne Division soldiers on Sept. 25, 1957, after Gov. Orval Faubus had used the National Guard to keep the students out.

The school’s desegregation took place three years after a U.S. Supreme Court landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision that declared school racial segregation as unconstitutional.

Park Ranger Jodi Morris told The Associated Press that the eight members of the Little Rock Nine who are still alive have been a part of the planning process.

“They’ve been consulted from the very beginning about the commemoration, and we’ve constantly been getting their feedback,” Morris said.

Morris said officials are hopeful the civil rights pioneers will be able to attend the ceremony and other events under the theme of ‘Reflections of Progress.’

Officials also announced a commemoration ceremony, interfaith ceremony and fundraising concert and unveiled a 60th anniversary logo — designed by current students — featuring the school’s facade.

Details of the commemoration ceremony haven’t been released. Former President Bill Clinton spoke at the 50th anniversary ceremony.

Morris said the school is a reflection of a more diverse Little Rock, but there is still work to be done when it comes to creating a more equal society.

“When you’re talking about things like integration and equality and justice and freedom, or like preserving a historic building, the work is never done,” Morris said.

A scheduled panel discussion featuring the children of the Little Rock Nine and an education forum are aimed at continuing the preservation of Central High’s history.

Despite the work that’s left to be done, Central High senior Breyona Butler said the school is doing a good job of keeping its legacy alive making sure it’s is a part of daily student life.

“I know for a fact that every student knows the history we have,” Butler said. “We go to the visitor center across the street, we have civics and we talk about it every day.”


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