The end of the 1950s saw a major change in Arkansas. Desegregation of schools was the hot topic during the latter part of the decade, and it seemed as if the entire world was watching to see what the residents of the Natural State would do when it came to integrating education. These photos from that era reflect both nostalgia and evoke emotions that are still just as strong today.
10. Van Buren Integration
Photographer John Bledsoe took a picture of these Van Buren students successfully integrating the high school without incident in September 1958.
9. Downtown Little Rock
The State Capitol is visible in the background of this September 17, 1958 shot by Thomas O'Halloran. Not much has changed other than the style of traffic lights, public transportation, and the amount of pedestrian traffic.
8. Velda Rose Motel Vacation
This vacationing couple took a trip to the Velda Rose Motel in 1957. Flickr user Robert Huffstutter says he even still has one of the towels from the Velda Rose somewhere among his collection of family souvenirs.
7. A Statement Made
Angry at the idea of Little Rock integrating students, a crowd of people gathered on the steps of the State Capitol on August 20, 1959 to voice their complaints about the issue.
6. Mob On The Move
A young boy watches a parade of frustrated citizens marching toward the State Capitol to rally against integration on August 20, 1959.
5. State Capitol Rally
Photographer John Bledsoe took this shot of protesters gathered at the State Capitol to voice their disagreement with desegregating schools.
4. Protecting The Little Rock Nine
This photo from the National Archives shows soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division safely escorting the Little Rock Nine to Central High School in September 1957.
3. Central High Hallway
This picture of an empty Central High School hallway was taken by Thomas O'Halloran in September 1958. The mindset of the era's politics shows in this picture as what would have been a regular school day did not happen. Central was closed at the time instead of allowing integration (or any education) in the classroom.
2. Home Schooling In Little Rock
To compensate for shutting the doors of Little Rock's Central High to all students, the district provided education through television until the issue of integration could be worked out. We have featured a few of these 'home school' photos from this turbulent time. It's very poignant to see and know that all students were separated at one point during this time of tough and controversial decisions.
1. Elizabeth Eckford, Intrepid and Undaunted
The most famous picture of the Little Rock Nine's determination to integrate Central High, this photograph of Elizabeth Eckford was taken on September 4, 1957 after she attempted to enter the school. The faces of hate on the angry mob behind her did not reflect well on America's opinion of Arkansas. The picture was so widely known throughout the U.S. that, decades later, surviving members of the angry mob who protested integration would publicly apologize to Eckford as well as the other members of the Little Rock Nine.
The Civil Rights Movement is an integral part of American history. Now that we are decades removed from the era, how much have we learned, changed and grown as a people? Granted, the country is far more diverse in the 21st-century than it was in 1958—but has the overall American mindset been educated about this turbulent time in education?