Going Back to Little Rock

USA Today has a moving story commemorating the 50th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock, Arkansas' Central High School:

Of all the images of the civil rights movement, one of the most chilling is a photo of a black teenager in a shirtwaist dress and sunglasses walking through a screaming white mob. Since it was taken Sept. 4, 1957, Elizabeth Eckford has been the face of the desegregation crisis at Little Rock Central High School.

Most of the story focuses on a less-publicized incident that took place months after the school was integrated. Fed up with continuing harassment from white students, 16-year-old Minnijean Brown, one of just nine blacks in the school, "accidentally on purpose" spilled chili on a white student and was eventually expelled from Central.

The schlamozzel in this racial drama, Dent Gitchel, tells USAT:

...the incident led him to consider his place in the "parallel universes" that whites and blacks inhabited. "All this stuff was swirling around me," he recalls. "I was bewildered by what was going on."

Gitchel, then a junior, wound up missing his senior year after Gov. Orval Faubus ordered Little Rock's four high schools closed for the 1958-59 school year rather than continue to integrate them. Gitchel never got his high school diploma but passed special entrance exams to attend college. He went on to teach law at the University of Arkansas.

The year 1957 was, he says, "the year I really started thinking."...

Through [the furor surrounding integration], Gitchel recalls, he did nothing. "I just wanted to get along with my life. I didn't say anything or do anything," he says.... "I wish today that I had had the insight or courage. I wish I had reached out and taken a stand."

Brown and Gitchel got back in touch with one another two years ago and will serve as judges for a charity chili cookoff of all things.

The article takes the measure of the progress (and limits) of race relations over the past half-century:

One of the nation's best public high schools -Newsweek ranks it 26th - Central still has problems: Advanced placement classes remain mostly white. Black students lag in test scores. And although interviews with students reveal more acceptance of other races and ethnic groups, Principal Nancy Rousseau says there's room for improvement. "Kids tend to gravitate" to kids like themselves, she says. "They do segregate themselves at lunch."

Whole thing here.

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  • ||

    "Kids tend to gravitate" to kids like themselves, she says. "They do segregate themselves at lunch."

    If only there were some way to more directly control the choices they make. That way they wouldn't make wrong choices about who they sit with at lunch, but would make choices that we approve of.

  • ed||

    They also segregate themselves at church,
    where they learn to bide their time until Jesus calls them home.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    I would be more inspired by the story if I believed in the institution of high school, but I don't. It's an historical aberration for people to be infantilized so far into their teenage years. Most times and places have treated older teens more like adults. But we have this institution, this bastard child of the Progressive Era and the New Deal, that treats them like children.

  • ||

    I would be more inspired by the story if I believed in the institution of high school, but I don't. It's an historical aberration for people to be infantilized so far into their teenage years. Most times and places have treated older teens more like adults. But we have this institution, this bastard child of the Progressive Era and the New Deal, that treats them like children.

    Progress sucks. I too, bemoan the fact that I was not forced to work in a textile mill as a child or sent off to war as a fifteen year-old.

  • lunchstealer||

    "Kids tend to gravitate" to kids like themselves, she says. "They do segregate themselves at lunch."

    I tend to spend time at work with folks who have scruffy haircuts and wear jeans, rather than hanging out with the $150 slacks and $200 shoes types. Go figure.

  • Abdul||

    Hopefully, the lunchtime self-segregation will prevent more chili-related expulsions.

  • ||

    That's nice. Do we really have to buy an anniversary gift with gold in it? I'm kinda strapped right now.

  • ||

    "Kids tend to gravitate" to kids like themselves, she says. "They do segregate themselves at lunch."

    Of course they do. Black people and white people don't like each other very much, but we all pretend that it's otherwise and pretend that we're shocked by the obvious.

  • Abdul||

    I too, bemoan the fact that I was not forced to work in a textile mill as a child or sent off to war as a fifteen year-old.

    Hey, Dan, Dent Gitchel in the story didn't finish high school and he became a law professor! Just proves the point that high school is unnecessary if you go into the legal field.

  • ||

    Hey, Dan, Dent Gitchel in the story didn't finish high school and he became a law professor! Just proves the point that high school is unnecessary if you go into the legal field.

    Remember it's Arkansas we're talking about here.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Dan T.:
    Progress sucks. I too, bemoan the fact that I was not forced to work in a textile mill as a child or sent off to war as a fifteen year-old.

    The "progress" of the Progressive Era included Jim Crow laws. Yes, Dan, progress sometimes sucks. Since when were factory work and soldiering the only alternatives for American teenagers who don't want to be chained to a desk and spoon-fed information by government officials for six hours every weekday?

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Remember it's Arkansas we're talking about here.

    It was in bad taste for Michael Richards to say nigger on a comedy club stage, but jokes about stupid rednecks are no problem at all.

  • ||

    Brian, I'm a genuine North Carolina redneck myself so I'm entitled. At least grant us the privilege of looking down our noses at our redder cousins.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    I get creepy déjà vu sometimes when I argue with Dan.

  • ||

    The "progress" of the Progressive Era included Jim Crow laws. Yes, Dan, progress sometimes sucks. Since when were factory work and soldiering the only alternatives for American teenagers who don't want to be chained to a desk and spoon-fed information by government officials for six hours every weekday?

    It sounds more sinister if you refer to teachers as "government agents". And it's not information, it's "propaganda".

  • ||

    Guys,

    Without child labor laws, kids would have an easier time running away from abusive homes. And, runaways wouldn't have to take up risky professions like prostitution to survive.

    Repealing child labor laws would deprive many child abusers and child molesters of a steady supply of victims. Please, keep those laws in place, child abusers will be so grateful.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    It sounds more sinister if you refer to teachers as "government agents". And it's not information, it's "propaganda".

    Public school teachers are overrated. That's the only way to explain the totally undeserved 90% Tomatometer for the movie Election. Sympathizing with Matthew Broderick's character in that movie is like sympathizing with Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Without child labor laws, kids would have an easier time running away from abusive homes. And, runaways wouldn't have to take up risky professions like prostitution to survive.

    Unfortunately, progressives won't listen. They don't acknowledge any discrepancy between a law's intended consequences and its actual consequences. On some subjects, like drugs, gays, and immigrants, conservatives have a similar attitude.

  • ||

    Guys,

    Without child labor laws, kids would have an easier time running away from abusive homes. And, runaways wouldn't have to take up risky professions like prostitution to survive.

    Repealing child labor laws would deprive many child abusers and child molesters of a steady supply of victims. Please, keep those laws in place, child abusers will be so grateful.


    tarran, while I enjoy your spot-on satire of libertarian philosophy I'm pretty sure you risk being hit with the dreaded "troll" label for posts such as these. Just a warning from a guy who has been there before.

  • dhex||

    It was in bad taste for Michael Richards to say nigger on a comedy club stage, but jokes about stupid rednecks are no problem at all.

    get off the cross, we need it for the moonshine still.

  • Trollaphile||

    "Repealing child labor laws would deprive many child abusers and child molesters of a steady supply of victims. Please, keep those laws in place, child abusers will be so grateful"

    So we should do it for the children.

  • ||

    Oh Dan, that wasn't satire. It might shock you, but politicans often lie about the intended effect of the laws they pass. If Jesse Helms had proposed a law forbidding black people from working, somehow I don't think you would be singing its praises.

  • ||

    Rather, I wasn't satirizing a libertarian position. The bit about supporting child molesters was sarcastic though.

  • ||

    Advanced placement classes remain mostly white. Black students lag in test scores. And although interviews with students reveal more acceptance of other races and ethnic groups, Principal Nancy Rousseau says there's room for improvement. "Kids tend to gravitate" to kids like themselves, she says. "They do segregate themselves at lunch."

    The cliques probably form in the classes and carry over into the lunch room. Getting rid of tracking would help there, but that wouldn't be easy. With no tracking, the teachers have to hand out D's or actually teach low performing students.

  • ||

    Dan T.

    Why is spending 5 hours per week sewing pillows in home economics for $0 per hour OK when spending 5 hours per week sewing pillows at a factory for $3 per hour forbidden?

  • Will||

    At least the current segregation isn't because of laws forcing people to segregate rather than letting them do so on their own. Letting people rather than the state decide who to sit with where and when isn't that what Libertarians want ?

  • ||

    Why is spending 5 hours per week sewing pillows in home economics for $0 per hour OK when spending 5 hours per week sewing pillows at a factory for $3 per hour forbidden?

    jtuf, did the "High School" you attended have a nap time, and lots of scissor-work?

  • ||

    Joe,

    Most of the classes consisted of sitting at a desk with paper work, but it did have home economics classes, tech classes, and art classes.

  • ||

    Of course they do. Some black people and some white people don't like each other very much, but I we all pretend that it's otherwise and pretend that I'm we're shocked by the obvious.

    Fixed that for you. Can you please avoid using the collective term "we" in such statements on a individualist website?


  • ||

    jtuf, did the "High School" you attended have a nap time, and lots of scissor-work?

    No, but mine had a lot of crossword puzzles, word-finds, endless worksheets, videos, and other assorted busy-work horse shit.

  • ||

    If a kid skips high school, what would said kid do with that time instead? How would this alternate use of time prepare our HSless kid for later success in life?

  • ||

    I doubt any child labor spends only 5 hours a week in a factory. On the other side, parents would be pretty upset if their kids were spending 30 hours a week in school sewing pillows.

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