South Pacific and Central High

May 1, 2017

In September 1957, the events surrounding the desegregation of Central High School became a focal point for national and international outrage at Little Rock’s treatment of black schoolchildren. This manifested itself in a number of ways. In a New York City suburb, a young actress walked on stage in the popular new Rogers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific. Portraying main character Nellie Forbush, she proclaimed, “I’m just a little girl from Little Rock.” The unfortunate sounding name—Forbush was not a far cry from Faubus—from the woe-betide southern city brought a halt to the performance because of the ferocity of the jeers and catcalls that the line prompted. However, it did not stop a successful film version starring Mizzi Gaynor and Rossano Brazzi from appearing the following year.