Arkansas Moments

Arkansas Moments is a special feature of UALR Public Radio that explores the history of the civil rights movement in Arkansas with Dr. John A. Kirk, George W. Donaghey Distinguished Professor and Chair of the UALR History Department. 

jakirk@ualr.edu

Sue Cowan Williams

Jun 9, 2015

Seventy years ago this month, Sue Cowan Williams, chair of the English Department at Dunbar High School, won her lawsuit for equal pay between black and white teachers in Little Rock schools. Her stand came at a great personal cost. Because she demanded justice, her contract was not renewed by the school district. She taught at Pine Bluff AM&N College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff), and then worked in a munitions plant in Jacksonville before taking a position at Arkansas Baptist College.

Sue Cowan Williams

Jun 9, 2015

Seventy years ago this month, Sue Cowan Williams, chair of the English Department at Dunbar High School, won her lawsuit for equal pay between black and white teachers in Little Rock schools. Although the Federal District Court ruled against her, on June 19, 1945, the Eighth Circuit Appeals Court in St. Louis upheld her claim of discrimination. The court carefully scrutinized the evidence of, “pay rolls, the qualifications of teachers, their years of experience, their positions, and the minutes of the [Little Rock School] Board” from as far back as 1926.

Sue Cowan Williams

Jun 9, 2015

Seventy years ago this month, Sue Cowan Williams, chair of the English Department at Dunbar High School, won her lawsuit for equal pay between black and white teachers in Little Rock schools. She was chosen as the standard bearer for the case because of her impeccable credentials. Born and raised in Eudora, Arkansas, her parents, both schoolteachers, sent her to some of the best schools open to African Americans at the time. These included Spelman College in Atlanta and Talladega College in Alabama.

Arkansas General Assembly 1959

Apr 9, 2015

Starting in 1957, three successive Arkansas General Assemblies passed an ever-increasing and ever-more drastic set of pro-segregation measures. In 1959, Act 14 made it illegal for a person to refuse to leave a place of business if requested to do so by the management for any reason. Act 81 created a bus seat numbering system for intra state bus journeys in an attempt to preserve segregation by seat assignment. Act 115 forbade any member of the NAACP from holding a government position.

Arkansas General Assembly 1958

Apr 9, 2015

Starting in 1957, three successive Arkansas General Assemblies passed an ever-increasing and ever-more drastic set of pro-segregation measures. In 1958, Act 4 empowered the governor to shut down any integrated school district. Several other acts provided contingency measures for this. Act 10 ordered all people signing teaching contracts to disclose all groups that they were members of to their employers, with the aim of intimidating members of the NAACP.  Act 11 prevented all organizations from filing lawsuits that affected public education.

Arkansas General Assembly 1957

Apr 9, 2015

Starting in 1957, three successive Arkansas General Assemblies passed an ever-increasing and ever-more drastic set of pro-segregation measures. In 1957, Act 83 created a State Sovereignty Commission to protect the state from “encroachment…by the Federal Government.” Act 85 ordered all groups that received donations in the state to report them to the Sovereignty Commission, in an attempt to monitor the activities of civil rights organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The Economics of Public Schools

Mar 16, 2015

The 1957 Little Rock school crisis was an economic disaster for the city. The negative headlines from calling out the National Guard to prevent the desegregation of Central High School reverberated around the world. The closing of Little Rock’s public high schools in 1958-1959 further alienated potential investors. The city lived to rue the economic costs of the long school crisis. Four years passed before another industry relocated to the city.

Firing Public School Teachers

Mar 16, 2015

At a Little Rock School Board meeting on May 5, 1959, segregationist members attempted to push through measures to remove anyone unsympathetic to their cause from the public school system. Blocking each of these measures, representatives of moderate business interests on the school board left the meeting so that there would be no quorum. However, the segregationist president of the school board ruled that the meeting could continue. Segregationists proceeded to make a series of decisions about the running of the schools system.

Little Rock Private School Corporation

Mar 16, 2015

In 1958, Gov. Orval Faubus presided over a segregationist Arkansas General Assembly that passed legislation to hold a referendum in a school district. The voters could choose to desegregate public high schools or to close them completely. Little Rock voted to close them completely. The morning after the announcement of the referendum result, Faubus pressured the school board into leasing the public schools to a Little Rock Private School Corporation for private operation.

First State Takeover of Little Rock School

Jan 29, 2015

In 1954, when the United States Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision was handed down, Orval Faubus was running against incumbent Francis Cherry for governor. Inevitably, the question of school desegregation arose on the campaign trail. Faubus insisted that school policy was best handled at a “local level” with local communities empowered to determine their own course of action.

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