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Little Rock Nine commemorate 66th anniversary of Central High desegregation

5 of The Little Rock Nine meet in a ballroom of the Capitol Hotel to talk about the future.
Josie Lenora
Little Rock Public Radio
Five members of the Little Rock Nine meet in a ballroom of Little Rock's Capitol Hotel Monday.

66 years have passed since the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. To commemorate the milestone, five of the first nine black students to attend the school spoke with the public on Monday. In 1957, the group faced angry mobs and harassment while they entered and attended the high school.

The event was held in conjunction with the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, and came after the Arkansas Department of Education’s decision to remove accreditation from AP African American Studies courses in high schools across the state.

Dr. Terrence Roberts commented on the decision.

“They’re burning books, they’re interrupting coursework,” he said. “They are proposing a fictional narrative that will be used instead of the whole truth.”

He was critical of Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders who supported the decision, and has said courses like AP African American Studies contain “indoctrination.”

“Ignorance has a head start fueled by the current governor of Arkansas,” he said.

Minnijean Brown-Trickey said she spent time with young people in her activism work. She said young people are “going to get sick of being told they don't deserve to know.”

“They’re going to rise up, and I am waiting for that,” she said.

Elizabeth Eckford agreed with her, saying “children need to be able to understand the traditions of other people."

Carlotta Walls LaNier said the group spent the Monday meeting with high school students.

“First of all, it was quiet,” she said. “So, they were listening.” She joined with her fellow panelists in arguing that young people are well-informed about social issues.

“I've said this over the years since the Parkland High School Shootings. Those people warmed my heart then.”

At the same event, the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service announced an endowment campaign to continue funding a scholarship named in honor of the Little Rock Nine.

Thelma Mothershed Wair joined fellow members of the Nine but did not speak during the event.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.