Bill Clinton to Honor Little Rock Nine on 60th Anniversary of Desegregation

by: Lenore T. Adkins Special to the AFRO
/ (AP Photo/Danny Johnston) /
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Former President Bill Clinton will return to Arkansas next month to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Little Rock Central High School’s desegregation, according to the Associated Press.

Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the 50th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2007. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Clinton will deliver the keynote speech at the ceremony, slated for Sept. 25. He’ll speak from the school’s Roosevelt Thompson Auditorium.

Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States, was born and raised in Hope, Ark. and served as the governor of Arkansas for 11 years starting in 1979.

As he rose to the top of his political career, Clinton frequently recognized the high school and the Little Rock Nine.

As governor, Clinton hosted the nine Black students at the Governor’s Mansion in 1987. It marked the first time the group had been together since they integrated Central High School in the 1957-58 school year, the AP reported.  

When he was president, Clinton signed legislation that declared Central High a National Historic Site. He went on to present the Little Rock Nine with the Congressional Gold Medal, which is Congress’ highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.

Clinton also delivered the keynote address at the 40th and 50th anniversary of the school’s desegregation.

In 1957, three years after the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling forced schools to integrate, the Little Rock Nine enrolled in the all-White Central High School.

Then-governor Orval Faubus defied the order by deploying the Arkansas National Guard to block the Black students from actually attending the school. President Dwight Eisenhower eventually sent federal troops to the school to force integration and protect the nine students.

The Little Rock Nine are: Melba Pattillo Beals, Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Thelma Mothershed, Terrence Roberts and Jefferson Thomas. All except for one are still alive.  Jefferson Thomas passed away in 2010 of pancreatic cancer.

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