Help find students who desegregated Little Rock’s junior high schools

Ever heard of Larry Davis, Linda Eskridge/Brown, Sarah E. Jordan, or Jessie Walker? How about Gary Ledbetter, Brenda Sims, Nathan Summerfield, or Dianne Threet? These are a few of the 25 students who desegregated public junior high schools in Little Rock in 1961.

Dr. LaVerne Bell-Tolliver, assistant professor in the UALR School of Social Work, needs your help to find them. 


New York City Mayor Robert Wagner greeting the teenagers who integrated Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas / World Telegram photo by Walter Albertin. (Public Domain)

The history of Little Rock’s Central High School desegregation in 1957 is well known; however, the city’s integration efforts did not end during that school year. After 1957, most schools in the city were still segregated. Between 1961 and 1962, black students enrolled at junior high schools that had previously be closed to them.

Bell-Tolliver is working to find these former students for participation in a research project titled “Telling Our Stories: Interviews of the 25 African Americans who were the first to desegregate the Little Rock public junior high schools.” 

According to her, 10 of the individuals still need to be located in order to be interviewed for the project. See the details below.

Dr. LaVerne-Bell-Toliver, "Tell Our Stories" project principal investigator

Dr. LaVerne-Bell-Tolliver, “Tell Our Stories” project principal investigator

Who/What do we need?
Contact information (phone numbers, email addresses, current locations, etc.) for the 25 African Americans who desegregated the following Little Rock public junior high schools: East Side, Forest Heights, Pulaski Heights, Southwest, and West Side in 1961-1962.

Individuals to be located include:
East Side: Larry Davis, Linda Eskridge/Brown, Sarah E. Jordan, Jessie Walker

Westside: Gary Ledbetter, Brenda Sims, Nathan Summerfield, Dianne Threet, and Fulton (or Felton) Walker

Individuals that have been identified and located include:
East Side: Equilla Banks, Alfreda Brown, Myrna Davis, Shirley Hickman, Glenda Wilson

Forest Heights: Dr. LaVerne Bell-Tolliver

Southwest: Henry Rodgers and Wilburnett Walls Randolph

Pulaski Heights: Judge Kathleen Bell and Pinkie Thompson

Westside: Alice Joiner Kimball, Dr. Kenneth Jones, Judge Joyce Williams Warren, Sandra Smith, Clarence Johnson, Betty McCoy Anderson, and Alvin Terry

Why is it needed?
We need to request their participation in a research project – Telling Our Stories: Interviews of the 25 African Americans who were the first to desegregate the Little Rock public junior high schools. Many people are unaware of their valuable contribution to the desegregation era. Their information will take its place in history as they tell the story only they are able to provide. The voices of these 25 students who desegregated the schools will allow the public to hear voices about those times that have not been heard.

When is this information needed?
Time is of the essence. We are currently searching for these courageous individuals and hope to locate all of them by December 2014.

Where to send the information?
LaVerne Bell-Tolliver, Ph.D., LCSW, Associate Professor and Principal Investigator
UALR School of Social Work, 2801 S. University Avenue, Ross Hall Room 417
Little Rock, AR 72204-1099
(501) 569-8466 or (870) 816-5169

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The Institute on Race and Ethnicity at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock was founded in July 2011. With a vision to make Arkansas the best state in the country for promoting and celebrating racial and ethnic diversity, the Institute conducts research, promotes scholarship and provides programs that address racial inequities. It does so by facilitating open and honest dialogue aimed at empowering communities and informing public policy to achieve more equitable outcomes.

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