Before Little Rock: Successful Arkansas School Integration

Before Little Rock: Successful Arkansas School Integration
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Before Little Rock: Successful Arkansas School Integration

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Because the integration crisis at Little Rock Central High School 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 will host a series of three events collectively titled "Before Little Rock: Successful Arkansas School Integration" to remind us of these historic milestones, the first public school integrations below the Mason-Dixon Line. The events will focus on the successful integration of the University of Arkansas Schools of Law and Medicine in 1948, the 1954 integration of the Fayetteville and Charleston public schools (the first public school integration below the Mason-Dixon Line), and the 1955 integration of Hoxie public schools.

The first event will recall the integration of the UA Law and Medical Schools in 1948. Calvin Smith, retired professor of history at Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, will moderate a panel made up of George W.B. Haley and Christopher C. Mercer, two of the six pioneers who attended the UA School of Law following integration, and Dr. Edith Irby Jones, who was the first African American to attend the UA School of Medicine in Little Rock in 1948. The Libraries will partner with the School of Law for the event, which will be held at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, in the E.J. Ball Courtroom, room 240 of the Leflar Law Center. A reception will follow in the Six Pioneers Room and foyer.

The second event will feature the integration of Charleston and Hoxie schools, and will consist of a screening of the documentary films Hoxie: The First Stand (David Appleby, producer, PBS Documentary, 2003), 1 hour, and Doing What Was Right (Jack Hill, producer, TeleVision of Arkansas, 2004), 30 minutes. Gerald Jordan, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Arkansas, will present the films at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, in Giffels Auditorium in Old Main. A welcoming reception will precede the event at 6 p.m.

The third event will commemorate the integration of Fayetteville High School in 1954. Historian Andrew Brill will lead a panel of six participants in the Fayetteville integration, which will include 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, European American members of the first integrated class. The event will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, in the Fayetteville High School Auditorium. A greeting and reception will begin at 6 p.m. with the program to follow at 7 p.m. Please use the south parking lot and entrance to the auditorium.


Tom W. Dillard, head of Special Collections
University Libraries
(479) 575-8444,

Molly Boyd, public relations coordinator
University Libraries
(479) 575-2962,


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