LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Little Rock Central High School is among the “Top 10” sites of importance on a U.S. Civil Rights Trail with more than 100 historic landmarks in 14 states, officials announced Monday.
The announcement that six Little Rock sites are on the trail was made at the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site Visitor Center in conjunction with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day federal holiday and the state holiday celebrating King’s birthday.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the civilrightstrail.com website officially launched Monday with an interactive map of the trail destinations.
“This is really a big deal,” Jim Dailey, the state’s tourism director for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, said of the state civil-rights sites being combined with historic locations in other states. “This puts us under a collective umbrella of interest that can draw people from around the world.”
The new Civil Rights Trail also coincides with the 60th anniversary of nine black students desegregating Little Rock Central High School under the protection of federal troops authorized by President Dwight Eisenhower. Arkansas National Guardsmen, called out by Gov. Orval Faubus, had earlier blocked the nine students from entering Central High despite a federal judge’s order to allow their attendance.
Along with Central High, other Little Rock sites are:
. The Little Rock Nine Memorial at the state Capitol.
. The Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail, which marks sites in Little Rock significant to the civil-rights movement.
. The William J. Clinton Presidential Center Center.
. The Daisy Bates house. Bates helped mentor the Little Rock Nine. She and her husband, Lucious Christopher (L.C.) Bates, published the Arkansas State Press, a newspaper that reported on civil-rights and other issues.
. The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, a museum of African-American history and culture in Arkansas.
The effort to create the trail has been led by the Alabama Department of Tourism. The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau established the Little Rock sites.
The Civil Rights Trail links “the country’s most important civil rights sites,” according to a description in a news release about the national trail.
The Civil Rights Trail identifies schools, museums, churches, courthouses and memorials in mostly Southern states where “activists challenged segregation in the 1950s and 1960s to advance social justice,” according to background information from the Alabama Department of Tourism.
“For the first time, the events, people, places and stories that defined the movement are connected and commemorated through an immersive and educational travel experience,” according to the website.
Central High joins other Top 10 trail destinations — the list is alphabetical and not numbered — such as the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where King was assassinated; the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, the site of a church bombing that killed four young black girls; and the Edmund Pettus Bridge/Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail in Selma, Alabama, the site of the “Bloody Sunday” beatings of civil-rights marchers.
“It really does put a lot of our history together across 14 states and the District of Columbia,” said Gretchen Hall, chief executive officer for the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, who led the Little Rock announcement Monday.
The trail will continue to expand and eventually include events from other decades. More Arkansas sites will be considered, Dailey said, mentioning, for example, the site of the Elaine Massacre in 1919 in the Phillips County town of Elaine. Historians estimate that about 250 black sharecroppers were killed by a mob of more than 1,000 whites after the sharecroppers had organized and demanded higher prices for their cotton crops.
The expectation is to “dig a little deeper” into the state’s civil rights history, Dailey said, to include more of the state’s locations on the national trail list and take the Civil Rights Trail “to another level.”
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com
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