Saturday, March 09, 2023
Written by: Whitney Schwisow

Little Rock Central High School surrounded by purple flowering trees.

Little Rock Central High School is still an active high school.

A 3 am start fueled by Belvita snack packs and McDonald’s breakfast led to a day filled with listening, learning, and reflecting on darker parts of our nation’s history. After driving through scenic northwest Arkansas, we arrived at our first stop: Little Rock Central High School. Central High School was the prestigious school the Little Rock Nine were working to desegregate but encountered resistance in 1957. We were able to see the stunning architecture of the high school and retrace the path Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, took when trying to enter the school. Learning about the more intricate details of this event was eye opening. One aspect I will remember after visiting this site is the list of requirements black students had to meet to be able to attend the previously all white school. This included being essentially a perfect student academically, but also the students could not retaliate to anything they experienced while at school, or they would be expelled. This handed a lot of power to the white students because they could inflict harm both physically and verbally and not face any punishment, but if the black students did or said anything back, they risked getting kicked out of school, which Minnijean Brown Trickey experienced. Despite these lofty requirements, the black students still could not participate in any extracurriculars such as sports, marching band, or clubs. To me, this shows how dedicated the students were to receiving an equal education. 

The desegregation of Little Rock followed the supreme court decision that separate but equal has no place in public education. Galatians 3:28 reads “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” God created us to be equal in the eyes of God. We are to love all of our neighbors as God loved us – not just the neighbors that look like us, act like us, or have the same political views as us.

Train station turned into museum for Japanese-American Internment Camps in McGhee AR

The museum holds artifacts and stories of those who were interned in Arkansa.

After visiting Central High, we visited Afrobites, an Authentic African Food truck. We got some delicious food and took off for McGehee, Arkansas. McGehee is a town that is located between where two Japanese American Internment Camps used to stand between 1942 and 1945, and now McGehee houses a museum in remembrance of what happened. After Pearl Harbor, people began to question the loyalty of Japanese Americans, which led to Executive Order 9066 approving the relocation of Japanese Americans living on the west coast to internment camps, which had minimal running water and were surrounded by barbed wire fences and guard towers. Many of these folks were American citizens. The most impactful part to me about this is that despite the racism experienced by Japanese Americans at this time, Japanese Americans went to war for our country. Not only did they go to war, but the most decorated regiment in American history was the 442nd Regiment – a segregated Japanese American unit who bravely served in World War II. The 442nd Regiment is recognized for their size and length of service. It devastates me that not even this amazing accomplishment and dedication to our country could prove their loyalty to the United States.

All that is left of Rowher War Relocation Center is the cemetery and the smokestack where the camp’s hospital used to be (pictured above). All other traces have been erased and standing on those grounds trying to imagine 8,000 people there at one time left an eerie feeling in the air for me.

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