Earlier this month, the junior IB History class took a trip to Little Rock, AR to visit Central High.
The school became the center of the debate on school desegregation in the United States when nine black students enrolled for the 1957-58 school year. After the important Brown v Board of Education decision in 1954, which overturned the premise of 'separate but equal', schools across the country were called to desegregate, a move that was deeply unpopular with many white Americans.
In Arkansas, the "Little Rock Nine" were selected for academic excellence and this was matched by the bravery and fortitude they showed during the violent protests that followed their enrollment. In the end, President Eisenhower had to send in the National Guard to enforce desegregation. Although the students attended for the full school year, racial attacks continued until the following summer when the governor of Arkansas actually shut down city schools to prevent integration. The students’ actions proved to be an important act in the Civil Rights Movement that opened the way for others. Today we celebrate the students’ impact and courage.
Lausanne IB History students are currently studying the Civil Rights Movement and gained much from their visit to this historic site. During the trip, each student was assigned one of the 'Little Rock Nine' profiles and asked to explore their personal experiences as they explored the National Park Service Museum.
Students were particularly moved by the individual stories and the power of watching footage from the 1950s as they looked out over the same streets and towards the high school. The museum visit was followed by a walk around the school building and a brief visit to a monument for the students at the state capitol building.
"History really comes alive when you do more than read about it. Given the important history of the Civil Rights Era in Memphis and the surrounding areas, such trips powerfully enforce what the students learn in the classroom, which expands their education beyond an exam," Upper School history teacher Jenny Reeve said.