The doors of Little Rock Central High School became gates of change on September 4, 1957, when nine African American students came to school for class — for the first time. Turned away by Arkansas Guard soldiers under orders from the Governor, they finally entered safely three weeks later when the President of the United States sent the 101st Airborne to enforce the Supreme Court’s rulings. And life changed in America.
As dramatic as Central’s story is, students coming through those doors in later years have known little about it. This, too, is now changing.
Central High students today are collecting the personal stories of family and neighbors who lived through historic and current civil rights struggles, not only at Central but across Arkansas, America, and the world. Every year, students in various Civics classes in Central are required to interview an elder and write an essay about that interview. These essays are then posted here, by the Memory Project Team.
The Little Rock Central High Memory Project created this website to serve as a permanent online resource for students, teachers, historians and the families of those who share their stories. Since the debut of this website, the project has evolved and with the addition of new funds, a book featuring select essays from this website has been published, Beyond Central, Toward Acceptance. The book has been a success at promoting the Memory Project, being featured in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Arkansas Literary Festival, Today's THV, and its own launch event hosted by the Clinton School of Public Service.
This website will feature a selection from editors in the future, selecting essays as a web addendum to the book, in addition to the yearly crop of essays. In addition to this, lesson plans will be hosted on this website so that educators can create their own memory projects across the country.
The categories on this website are organized along the idea of an increasing scope, from Central, beyond that to schools across America, beyond that to desegregation in public life, further still, beyond race conflict, and further still, toward the advocates of change and solutions.
It is our fondest hope that this project will foster understanding and promote acceptance and local and oral history in communities across the nation.