|Little Rock Central High School|
|U.S. National Register of Historic Places|
|U.S. National Historic Landmark|
|Location:||Little Rock, Arkansas|
|Area:||17.95 acres (72,640 m²)|
|Added to NRHP:||November 6, 1998|
|Designated NHL:||May 20, 1982|
Little Rock Central High School is a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, United States. Central High School was the site of forced school desegregation during the American Civil Rights Movement. Central is located at the intersection of Daisy L. Gatson Bates Drive (named for the civil rights leader and formerly known as 14th Street) and Park Street.
The current principal is Nancy Rousseau, who became principal in 2002.
Central has had the most National Merit and National Achievement finalists in the state over the past 10 years with over $4 million in scholarships awarded during the 2006–2007 school year. Central has had five Presidential Scholars in the last decade and had 144 AP Scholars in 2006–07. The school dominates at regional and state Science Fairs. It has the largest number of delegates to Boys' and Girls' State, the most participants in Governor's School Gifted and Talented Program, and has competed in chemistry Olympiad, Arkansas Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, mock trial, various mathematics competitions, and the SECME Olympiad. In addition, Central has had 55 Stephens' Award winners for outstanding academic achievement. As of 2008, Central has the most successful policy debate program in the state, winning the state championship 11 out of the past 12 years.
Central has an International Studies Magnet Program, one of the most advanced E.A.S.T. Lab Programs (run by Kirby Shofner), over 30 service, academic, and honors clubs available, award-winning instrumental and concert band and choral programs, over 141 courses offered, including 33 AP and Pre-AP courses and 5 foreign languages.
Central is posted by the admissions officers of the nation's most selective colleges and universities as one of the 16 best high schools in preparing students for college, has been fully accredited by the North Central Association since 1925, has the oldest charter west of the Mississippi in the Cum Laude Society, has top ranked student publications including The Tiger (the student newspaper), The Pix (the school yearbook), and The Labyrinth (the school poetry and arts magazine), has outstanding competitive speech and debate programs, the 2008 state champion Quiz Bowl team (division 7A), a strong Air Force JROTC, SECME programs, a national champion cheerleading squad, Drill Team, and Flag Line Spirit groups.
In Newsweek's May 17, 2008 issue, ranking the country's top high schools, Little Rock Central High School was ranked 36th in the nation, after having been ranked 20th in the magazine's 2006 rankings.
Built in 1927 at a cost of $1.5 million, Little Rock Senior High School, later to be renamed Little Rock Central High, was hailed as the most expensive, most beautiful, and largest high school in the nation. Its opening earned national publicity with nearly 20,000 people attending the dedication ceremony. Historic events in the 1950s changed education at Central High School and throughout the United States.
LRCHS was the focal point of the Little Rock Integration Crisis of 1957. Nine African-American students, known as the Little Rock Nine, were denied entrance to the school in defiance of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling ordering integration of public schools. This provoked a showdown between the Governor Orval Faubus and President Dwight D. Eisenhower that gained international attention.
On the morning of September 23, 1957, the nine African-American high school students faced an angry mob of over 1,000 White Americans protesting integration in front of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. As the students were escorted inside by the Little Rock police, violence escalated and they were removed from the school. The next day, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the 1,200-man 101st Airborne Battle Group of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to escort the nine students into the school. By the same order, the entire 10,000 man Arkansas National Guard was federalized, to remove them from the control of Governor Faubus. At nearby Camp Robinson, a hastily organized Task Force 153rd Infantry drew guardsmen from units all over the state. Most of the Arkansas Guard was quickly demobilized, but the ad hoc TF153Inf assumed control at Thanksgiving when the 327th withdrew, and patrolled inside and outside the school for the remainder of the school year. As Melba Pattillo Beals, one of the nine students, remembered, and quoted in her book, "After three full days inside Central [High School], I know that integration is a much bigger word than I thought."
This event, watched by the nation and world, was the site of the first important test for the implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. Arkansas became the epitome of state resistance when the governor, Orval Faubus, directly questioned the authority of the federal court system and the validity of desegregation. The crisis at Little Rock's Central High School was the first fundamental test of the national resolve to enforce black civil rights in the face of massive resistance during the years following the Brown decision. As to whether Eisenhower's specific actions to enforce integration violated the Posse Comitatus Act, the Supreme Court, in Cooper v. Aaron (1958), indirectly affirmed the legality of his conduct, which was never, though, expressly reviewed.
LRCHS was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 19, 1977, and was designated a National Historic Landmark on May 20, 1982. The school itself continues to be used as an educational facility.
In 2007, Central High School held an event for the 50th Anniversary of the Little Rock Nine entering Central. On September 24, 2007, a new museum was opened honoring the Little Rock Nine.
Little Rock Central High School made legal history again in 1968, this time in the field of the teaching of evolution in the public schools. LRCHS biology teacher Susan Epperson agreed to be the plaintiff in a case challenging an Arkansas law forbidding the teaching of the theory of evolution by natural selection in the public schools. The United States Supreme Court's decision in Epperson v. Arkansas held that states could not require that "teaching and learning must be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma," i.e. that the teaching of evolution in schools could not be forbidden on religious grounds.
The Little Rock Central Tigers have an accumulated numerous state championships as well as individual and team records, including but not limited to:
Elementary schools that feed into Little Rock Central include:
Middle schools include Cloverdale Magnet Middle School, Dunbar Magnet Middle School, Forest Heights Magnet Middle School, Henderson Health Sciences Magnet Middle School, and Pulaski Heights Middle School.
Magnet-only schools that matriculate many students to Central include Mann Arts and Science Magnet Middle School.
The Tiger is the official news publication of Little Rock Central High School and one of the oldest high school newspapers in the country. It is issued in the form of a monthly mini-magazine that keeps students updated on issues around the school and world. The newspaper won many Arkansas Scholastic Press Association awards. The periodical is known for covering many negative issues pertaining to student life, including eating disorders, drug use, and academic dishonesty.
In 2007 HBO did a documentary titled, Little Rock Central: 50 Years Later. The primary focus of the film was the continued failure of many African American students in remedial courses while showing advanced placement courses that were mostly white.
On November 6, 1998, Congress established Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. The National Historic Site is administered in partnership with the National Park Service, Little Rock Public Schools, the City of Little Rock, and others.
The Visitor Center for the site is located diagonally across the street from the school, and opened in Fall 2006. It contains a captioned interpretive film on the Little Rock Integration Crisis, as well as multimedia exhibits on both that and the larger context of desegregation during the 20th century and the Civil Rights Movement.
Opposite the Visitor Center is the Central High Commemorative Garden, which features nine trees and benches that honor the students. Arches that represent the school's facade contain embedded photographs of the school in years since the crisis, and showcase students of various backgrounds in activities together.
Opposite the Visitor Center in the other direction is a historic Mobil gas station, which has been preserved in its appearance at the time of the crisis. At the time, it served as the area for the press and radio and television reporters. It later served as a temporary Visitor Center before the new one was built.