Written by Sophie Rossitto // Photo provided by the Black Student Association
The Black Student Association (BSA) organized a visit to Little Rock Central High School Saturday, Feb. 18, allowing participants to explore the history of integration during the Civil Rights Era and the impact of these events on opportunities for Black students today.
Junior BSA public relations officer Ashanti Poindexter said the visit to Central High School is a yearly trip open to all students.
“I think it’s really cool that we get to go see something that’s pretty close by but has a lot of historical significance still today,” Poindexter said.
In 1957, a group of Black teenagers, dubbed the “Little Rock Nine” by the media, began attending classes at the all-White school during one of the first key tests to the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, according to the National Park Service (NPS) website. President Dwight Eisenhower sent federal troops to protect the students from the threat of White mob violence as the teenagers entered the school Sept. 25.
Poindexter said during the BSA trip, students spent the morning touring both the school and the exhibits at the nearby visitor center, then they stopped for lunch before going back to campus.
Junior Ta’Mya Jones said her grandparents were alive during the 1950s, which made the story of the Central High School integration feel closer to home as she reflected on it. When the Little Rock Nine began attending the school, they received verbal insults, physical attacks, threats and hate mail from classmates, according to the NPS website.
“Just to imagine that you’re just trying to go to school and get equal education, and people are throwing acid in your face and hitting you with tennis rackets,” Jones said. “I can’t imagine, like that could’ve been my grandparents.”
Senior Princess Welch attended the trip and said she had also visited the site when she was in high school. Welch said she felt honored to stand on the steps of the building where the Little Rock Nine had fought for the rights of Black students like her.
However, she said visiting the museum was emotionally heavy and gave her a sense of the struggles and discrimination the Little Rock Nine endured in order to get an education.
“They weren’t fighting the law,” Welch said. “They were fighting hate.”
Poindexter said she hoped those who went on the tour were able to look at the events at Central High School from their own perspectives and have a better understanding of why the quality of education for Black students is much better now.
Jones, who is majoring in elementary education, said she is grateful for the Little Rock Nine’s courage. She said if they had not made the decision to go to Central High School, she might not have the opportunity to attend Harding today and teach students from different backgrounds in the future.
“It just makes me think that their bravery really made a difference for me, and I’m here because of what they did and the many people that they inspired,” Jones said.