Central High School honors Little Rock Nine, 50 years of desegregation

Photo: The Little Rock Nine, gathered together once again for the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock Centra September 25, 1957, is a landmark day for Little Rock and Central High School. It is the day nine students unknowingly made history by being the first African-American students to attend the previously all-white school. The students, who became known to the world as the "Little Rock Nine," earned notoriety (and unending torment from some of their classmates) but carried on as best as they could during the 1957-58 school year.On September 25, 2007, 50 years to the day after they entered Central High School for the first time, Little Rock paid tribute to those nine brave teenagers with a commemoration ceremony on the front lawn of the historic 80-year-old school. Former President Bill Clinton, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Governor Mike Beebe, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, LRSD School Board President Dr. Katherine Mitchell and Central High School student body president Cyrus Bahrassa paid tribute to those nine brave individuals, all of whom were present at the ceremony and spoke briefly about their experience at Central and how it changed or affected their lives. Members of Central’s Class of 2008 also were in attendance, cheering the Little Rock Nine for their bravery and strength.

Central High School Principal Nancy Rousseau and local businessman Virgil Miller served as co-chairs of the 50th anniversary committee, which planned a whirlwind of events in addition to the 50th anniversary ceremony. Some of the other events included an ecumenical service, the Little Rock Nine Gala, the dedication of the new Central High School National Historic Site Visitor Center, educational symposiums, luncheons and other gatherings honoring the Little Rock Nine, art exhibits with civil rights and Central High as their themes, a rare exhibit of the Emancipation Proclamation at the Clinton Presidential Center and a screening of the new documentary "Journey to Little Rock."

Among those in attendance at the 50th anniversary ceremony were Rev. Jesse Jackson; former Arkansas governors David Pryor, Jim Guy Tucker and Mike Huckabee; and Reps. Vic Snyder (D-AR) and Mike Ross (D-AR).