(BPT) - The U.S. Civil Rights Trail, which now celebrates its fifth anniversary, has more than 100 locations across 15 states that follow the battle for civil rights over the years. In Arkansas, most of the locations on the trail can be found within ten minutes of one another in downtown Little Rock. Check out these five Civil Rights Trail destinations within your reach in Little Rock.
1. Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
In September 1957, Little Rock Central High School became a crucial battleground for desegregation as nine Black students, known as the Little Rock Nine, enrolled at the all-white high school. Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent them from attending. In response, President Dwight Eisenhower federalized the National Guard and sent in federal troops to escort the students to class.
In 2007, to mark the 50th anniversary of the school's desegregation, a visitor center was opened, making it the only functioning high school in the U.S. to be located within the boundary of a National Historic Site. The permanent exhibits feature interactive displays, interviews with the Little Rock Nine and historical video clips that cover the events of 1957 and the greater civil rights movement.
2. Daisy Bates House
During the Little Rock Integration Crisis, the home of Arkansas NAACP President Daisy Bates became a command post and sanctuary for the Little Rock Nine. The house functioned as the headquarters for military and civilians engaged in racial desegregation at Little Rock Central High School, including Thurgood Marshall, who later became a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
3. Little Rock Nine Memorial
"Testament: The Little Rock Nine Monument" honors the courageous nine Black students who integrated Little Rock Central High School. Located on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol, visitors can see bronze sculptures of the Little Rock Nine — Melba Pattillo Beals, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas, Minnijean Brown and Thelma Mothershed — and read comments from each on individual bronze plaques.
4. Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center is located on historic 9th Street in downtown Little Rock. This street was a cultural mecca for the African American community and was home to many vibrant businesses in the early to mid 1900s. Mosaic Templars tells the stories of those African American innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders who fought for racial integration in the state. The Center offers self-guided and guided tours.
5. Clinton Presidential Center
The library at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park features exhibits that chronicle the life and presidency of the nation’s 42nd president. Among those exhibits are pieces of history associated with the integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957. In 1997, then President Clinton appeared at the school and threw open the front doors inviting the Little Rock Nine inside. A year later in 1998, President Clinton signed legislation establishing Little Rock Central High School as a National Historic Site.
Whether you're a parent, teacher, history buff or curious traveler, visiting the Arkansas leg of the Civil Rights Trail won't be a trip you'll soon forget. To learn more about the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, visit https://civilrightstrail.com/destination/little-rock/.