UACCM plans several speakers for Black History Month

Several speakers are planned in observance of Black History Month at the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton.

Elizabeth Eckford and Dr. Sybil Jordan Hampton will speak at a free community event in the Fine Arts Auditorium at UACCM at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21.

In the early 1950s, Arkansas was one of 13 states with segregated schools, preventing black and white children from attending the same school. The start of integration in the South began when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) appealed to the United States Supreme Court in 1952 on the grounds that school segregation was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court denied this appeal claiming that segregation was constitutional as long as schools were “separate but equal.” For two years, the NAACP provided the court with information to prove that the schools were not equal, and in 1954, the court ruled in their favor. Some of the 13 states began desegregation, but others, like Arkansas, made few changes.

On Sept. 4, 1957, Elizabeth Eckford was one of nine African-American students, known as the Little Rock Nine, who attempted to enter Little Rock Central High School, a school that until then only accepted white students. Eight of the students arrived together to a side door of the school, but Eckford, who hadn’t received the message, bravely approached the school alone among a crowd of hundreds of angry protestors. The school was surrounded by members of the National Guard preventing Eckford and the others to enter. The National Guard was ordered by Gov. Orval Faubus who claimed that “blood will run in the streets” if the students attempted to enter the school.

Three weeks later on Sept. 25, President Dwight Eisenhower sent more than 1,000 members of the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army to let the Little Rock Nine attend Central High.  The students were finally let into the school, but troops remained at Central High for the rest of the year.  In September 1958, Faubus closed Little Rock’s high schools for one year based on a popular vote by citizens to prevent integration. But in 1959, federal courts ruled the closing of Little Rock schools unconstitutional, forcing them to reopen on Aug. 12.  

Four of the Little Rock Nine returned with a handful of other African-American students, Dr. Sybil Jordan Hampton among them. Hampton was the first black student to graduate after attending all grades at Central High School. In spite of these efforts toward integration, all Little Rock schools were not fully integrated until 1972.

Eckford and Hampton will share their tales of enduring hardships and acts of hatred during their time at Central High School as they speak at UACCM. The community is invited to attend this free event to celebrate Black History Month and honor those who took strides to enforce equality among all people during the Civil Rights Movement.

For more information, contact Courtney Stell at 501.977.2142 [email protected].