Grant to help digitize historical segregation materials

The 101st Airbourne division arrives at Little Rock Central High School, 1957.

Historically significant Arkansas documents will be available and preserved together in digital formats for the first time, thanks to a $106,908 grant University of Arkansas at Little Rock researchers obtained.

The UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture (CAHC) received the award to digitize materials related to the history of segregation and integration in Arkansas’ education system.

Digitizing this unique group of archival collections will provide scholars of civil rights, race, education, and law an opportunity to study the evolution of education in central Arkansas through the lens of religion, the judicial system, and contemporary students and educators.

The grant is part of the “Digitizing Hidden Collections and Archives” initiative sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). CAHC’s proposal was one of 18 chosen for the 2015 award cycle.

This 18-month project involves the collaboration of CAHC, the Central Arkansas Library System’s Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, and the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. The partnership of a university, public library, and national park is unique, and the strength of this combined institutional partnership is multifaceted.

This work will result in a rare meta-collection of materials housed in three different archives yet digitally available in a single location.

Elizabeth Eckford and L.C. Bates sit on a bench outside of Little Rock Central High School, 1957

Materials to be digitized include:

  • The National Dunbar Historical Collections. It contains materials pertaining to Dunbar High School, Little Rock’s high school for African American students before integration. This collection originates from a joint effort of the National Dunbar Alumni Association (NDAA) and UALR.
  • An FBI Little Rock school crisis report.  Judge Ronald Davies requested a U.S. attorney authorize an FBI investigation after receiving information the National Guard had turned away nine African American students who had attempted to attend classes at Central High School in September 1957. UALR obtained the materials in 1981 through FOIA requests.
  • Robert Brown papers. As the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas, he spoke against Gov. Orval Faubus’ handling of the Central High School integration crisis. Included in Brown’s papers are letters both supporting and criticizing his position.
  • Elizabeth Huckaby materials. She taught English at Central High School for more than 40 years. She also kept a journal during the integration crisis and published a book that was made into a film.
  • Federal Judge Harry Lemley papers. His 1958 ruling in the case Aaron v. Cooper temporarily halted the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School. His papers contain a scrapbook and correspondence detailing his role in the desegregation crisis.
  • Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. The building houses material related to the “Little Rock Nine,” the Women’s Emergency Committee, the organization of the Central High Museum prior to its affiliation with the National Park Service, and oral histories.
  • The Office of Desegregation Monitoring (ODM) materials. The federal office was created as a result of a Pulaski County school desegregation case (filed Nov. 30, 1982) and was charged with monitoring and assisting efforts of three school districts to meet desegregation obligations and mandates. ODM records include documents, court filings, exhibits, correspondence, maps, school profiles, and reports concerning compliance, operations, and policies.

See a selection of representative samples here.

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Photos: Top: The 101st Airbourne division arrives at Little Rock Central High School, 1957. Second: Elizabeth Eckford and L.C. Bates sit on a bench outside of Little Rock Central High School, 1957 (Raymond Preddy Photographs, UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture)

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