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Redefining The Color Line

UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture

A retrospective of Governor Orval Faubus.

On this episode, we interview Civil Rights historian John Kirk and explore his archived tapes of an interview with Gov. Orval Faubus recorded in 1992.

From 1955 to 1967, Faubus served as the Democratic Governor of Arkansas.  He is most known for leading Arkansas's refusal to comply with the Supreme Court's 1954 decision regarding desegregation in Brown v. Board of Education.

In 1957, Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent black students from entering the segregated Central High School in Little Rock. Historians have criticized Faubus for fanning the flames of the crisis for political gain. 

Credit UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture
Elizabeth Eckford with Grace Lorch during Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis


Credit UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture
In 1957 Soldiers lined up outside Central High School during Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis


In 1992, as a young graduate student, Kirk travelled to Arkansas from England to interview historical figures and Civil Rights leaders regarding the integration in 1957 of Central High School.

During these travels, Kirk spoke at length with the aging Governor. In these tapes, Faubus offers his candid perspective of the infamous "Little Rock Crisis," the defining moment of his political career and reflects on his decisions.

Kirk's book Redefining the Color Line: Black Activism in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1940-1970 offers a new perspective on Southern History and the Civil Rights movement in Arkansas and the mid-South. 

Credit UA Little Rock
Professor John Kirk

Dr. John A. Kirk is the George W. Donaghey Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Kirk was born and educated in the United Kingdom, where he taught at the University of Wales and the University of London before moving to UA Little Rock in the summer of 2010.

Kirk’s research focuses primarily on the history of the civil rights movement. He has published nine books, as well as a number of other works in a wide variety of journals, edited book collections, newspapers, and magazines. 

Thank you to Barry McCorkindale for the archived audio and for his work to archive audio recordings from KAAY. 

Thank you to Michael Hibblen.

Thank you to singers and songwriters Aaron Kamm and the One Drops, Max Gomez, L. Wayne Ashley, and Tim Anthony. 

Thank you to Stickyz Rock 'N' Roll Chicken Shack for keeping music alive and well in Arkansas.

Generous funding for this episode was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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