Before the Little Rock Nine desegregated Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957, the northeast Arkansas town of Hoxie had already integrated its schools two years earlier.
In 1955 Hoxie, with a population of 1,855 at the time, gained national attention after its school board moved to end racial segregation. A new historical exhibit is on display at the Arkansas State Capitol, called “Hoxie Right in ‘55” so that the story of that town is not forgotten.
“It was a decision made by the school board and their school superintendent, Kunkel Vance,” explains Capitol Historian David Ware, who oversaw creation of the exhibit. “They saw the handwriting on the wall with Brown v. Board of Education. They were also facing a financial pinch because they were running a deficit and they could eliminate half of that deficit by having the black students move over to the white school.”
Another reason Hoxie decided to end school segregation was because Vance said at the time it was the right thing to do.
“They took a stand on principle when they put out their statement to say ‘it was right in the eyes of God,’” says Ware. “This is a group of white males who had a powerful sense of what doing the right thing entailed.”
The timely arrival of the exhibit is not meant to coincide with or undermine the 60th Anniversary of Central High, Ware reassures. He is working with the Hoxie First Stand Committee, a group in the northeast Arkansas town and Walnut Ridge, who do not want this story forgotten.
“They are trying to raise public awareness of and maybe support for creating a museum in Hoxie that will preserve this story. It’s not just a story that has to do with one little community, it has reverberations throughout the state.”
“Hoxie Right in ‘55” is now on display in the Arkansas State Capitol’s first-floor galleries from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays and 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on weekends.