Newly online files cover history of state schools' desegregation

More than 350,000 digital files related to the history of segregation and integration of Arkansas schools are now available at no cost to researchers and to others around the world with access to a computer and the Internet.

The online files are the compilation of reams of documents, photographs and other artifacts stored in three different archives in central Arkansas.

A 2010 congressional tribute to the late Little Rock Nine member Jefferson Thomas and a 2008 notebook for organizing a 50-year reunion of the Women's Emergency Committee are in the collection.

So are Little Rock Central High student telephone directories, School Board agendas, district budgets, maps, correspondence, newspaper clippings and reports from the federal Office of Desegregation Monitoring, among other items.

In all, more than 350,000 digital files are available for viewing by students, civil-rights historians, educators and others at

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Center for Arkansas History and Culture obtained a $106,908 grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources' Hidden Collections and Archives initiative to make materials accessible online. The grant was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

"We questioned why we should do it just for us," Deborah Baldwin, associate provost of the Center for Arkansas History and Culture, said about the early days of the project that has since stretched over more than two years.

The university approached the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, which is a section of the Central Arkansas Library System, and the Little Rock Central High National Historic Site about incorporating their collections.

"We took the lead, and they allowed us to digitize their materials, as well," Baldwin said, adding that while the collection is unified online, each institution retained ownership of the original pieces.

Sarah Bost was the lead archivist on the project.

"Too much of what happens in Arkansas is unknown," Baldwin said. "This is a way that people anywhere can learn about it. We're not interested in having our [materials] in boxes and basements. That is not what we do. We very actively approach the use of archives. Putting the website together -- this virtual exhibit -- was a way to push the material out."

Materials digitized as part of the project include:

• The National Dunbar Alumni Association Historical Collection of materials pertaining to Little Rock School District's Dunbar High School, which was the district's high school for black students before integration.

• The FBI: Little Rock School Crisis Report, which was obtained by the university in 1981 through Freedom of Information Act requests. U.S. District Judge Ronald Davies requested that the U.S. attorney authorize an FBI investigation after receiving information that the National Guard had turned away nine black students who had attempted to attend classes at Central High School in September 1957.

• Letters in support and opposition to Robert Brown, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas, who at the time criticized then-Gov. Orval Faubus' handling of the Central High crisis.

• The journal and scrapbook kept by Elizabeth Huckaby, a Central High faculty member at the time of the desegregation. That journal became the basis of a book and later a movie.

• U.S. District Judge Harry Lemley's 1958 ruling in the case Aaron v. Cooper that temporarily halted the integration of Little Rock's Central High School, as well as his scrapbook and correspondence that detail his role in the desegregation case.

• Materials and oral histories related to the Little Rock Nine, Women's Emergency Committee, and the formation of the Central High Museum before its affiliation with the National Park Service.

• The reports, court filings, exhibits, maps, correspondence and school profiles that were generated, produced and kept by the federal Office of Desegregation Monitoring, which was responsible for tracking the compliance of the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special school districts with their court-approved desegregation plans in a 1982 federal lawsuit.

"A lot of people will find something in this collection that will interest them," Baldwin said.

Metro on 12/03/2018

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