Little Rock commemorating desegregation crisis that changed face of education

A Little Rock Nine memorial was installed outside the Arkansas Capitol this summer. Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism photo
The eyes of the nation will once again be on Little Rock, Ark., this fall as the city commemorates the 50th anniversary of the 1957 desegregation crisis at Central High School when nine black students sought an education amid angry mobs while the military and the media looked on.

Little Rock became the site of the first important test of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision when the courageous teenagers stood up to an angry crowd of protesters on Sept. 23, 1957, as they entered school. They left school that day for their safety, but two days later they returned for their first full day, this time escorted by federal troops.

One of the highlights of the commemoration will be the grand opening on Sept. 24 of the new Visitor Center at the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, located across from the still-operating school. Replacing a renovated Mobil gas station, the new center will feature photos, exhibits and artifacts that tell the dramatic story of the crisis. A grand opening ceremony was expected to be sold out, but the center will be open for touring after the ceremony.

On Sept. 25, the Little Rock Nine, as they are known, and state and national leaders will come together for a commemoration ceremony at 10 a.m. in front of Central High School at 1500 Park St. Seats for the event were all reserved by the press deadline for this issue.

Among the 30 other commemorative activities will be an exhibition at the Clinton Presidential Center called “The Long Struggle: The Federal Government and the Civil Rights Movement,” which will examine how presidential decisions influenced the Civil Rights movement. On display from Sept. 8–May 20, 2008, the highlight of the exhibit will be the original Emancipation Proclamation, which will be on display from Sept. 22–25.

Other exhibits will be featured at the Arkansas Arts Center and the Cox Creative Center. Dozens of other activities will include lecture series, symposiums, a two-day multi-cultural festival and a book release about Daisy Bates, one of the Little Rock Nine.

For additional information about all the events, visit www.arkansasglobecoming.com or www.nps.gov/chsc.

Battle of Midway echoing in New Orleans

The USS Yorktown after being hit by three Japanese bombs. William G. Roy photo
In the dark days of 1942 when the fate of the nation and the world hung in the balance following the horrific attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway became a turning point for U.S. forces and an incredible story of perseverance that is being retold today at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

The exhibition, “Incredible Victory: The Battle of Midway,” explores the American Pacific fleet’s struggle to confront the might of the Imperial Japanese Navy following Pearl Harbor. On display now through Oct. 28, the exhibit examines the amazing twists of fate that determined the outcome of the battle and showcases artifacts, images and personal accounts.

In May 1942, the Japanese Navy developed a plan to draw the remains of the Pacific fleet into a final engagement. With many ships sunk or damaged at Pearl Harbor, the U.S. fleet had to rely on its meager carrier force. The Battle of Midway, fought over and near the tiny U.S. base at Midway Atoll, was intended to be a decisive victory for the Japanese but instead became a stunning U.S. victory.

The exhibit also honors the contributions of America’s code-breakers and the determination of shipyard workers who quickly readied the USS Yorktown for the battle.

Located at 945 Magazine St., the museum is open 9 a.m.– 5 p.m. Tuesday–Sunday. Visit www.nationalww2museum.org or call (504) 527-6012.

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