Little Rock Central High School
Discover a powerful symbol of the nation’s struggle against school segregation at Little Rock Central High School. The site consists of the high school, which is still functioning with an enrolment of 2,500 students, as well as a visitor center, located a short walk from the campus. Learn how this school in Arkansas’s capital city became the first important test of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in 1954 to rule state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students as unconstitutional.
As you stand outside the high school, take a moment to admire its austere façade. Designed with a mixture of art deco and collegiate Gothic styles, it was one of the nation’s largest and most expensive high school facilities at the time of its completion in 1927. Take advantage of the excellent photo opportunities available from the school’s exterior. Admire the four statues that protrude from the building’s front entrance. These statues represent the virtues of ambition, personality, opportunity and preparation.
Take some time to reflect on the pivotal role that this site played in the civil rights movement. Imagine the tumultuous scenes on the morning of Sep. 23, 1957, when nine African American teenagers defied the protestations of an angry mob to join their classmates for the first time inside the school. Consider the violent scenes that escalated that morning, which forced President Eisenhower to order an entire U.S. army division to escort the students into the school.
Learn about this historic series of events at the visitor center, which contains photographs and other artifacts housed in a small permanent exhibit. For more information, take a guided tour of the school, available on weekdays by prior reservation only. Allow a minimum of 1 hour for the tour, which is led by a ranger from the National Park Service.
Little Rock Central High School is open daily and has no admission fee. The site is a short drive west of the city center. Guided tours are also free, though their availability depends on school activities on any given day. When the school is not in session, take a streetscape tour.