Arkansas is rich in history, but there’s a difference between places and events in the past that should be celebrated, and those that should be honored, and never forgotten. The Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail marks events and locations that fall into the latter category, sites in Little Rock that were significant to the national Civil Rights Movement.
The Arkansas trail is included as a place to visit on the larger U.S. Civil Rights Trail, which will mark its second anniversary next Monday, the same day the nation pauses to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This trail links the country’s most important civil rights sites: more than 100 landmarks that were pivotal to the advancement of social equality during the volatile 1950s and 1960s, including churches, courthouses, museums and memorials that provide information and context for those difficult years in our nation’s history.
Arkansas sites included on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail are:
Central High School National Historic Site
One of the “Top Ten” sites on the trail, the history of the Little Rock Nine comes alive at the visitor center and museum, which offers U.S. National Parks ranger-led tours of the still-functioning school. It is the only operating high school located within the boundaries of a National Historic Site.
Clinton Presidential Center
The William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum chronicles Clinton’s presidency and includes replicas of the Oval Office and Cabinet Room; on its grounds you can also find the Anne Frank Tree Exhibit that conveys the complex history of human rights in Arkansas.
Daisy Bates House
The home of Daisy Bates, who was president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP and liaison for the Little Rock Nine, was vandalized and bombed by those against integration. Her prominence as one of the few female civil rights leaders of the period was recognized by her selection as the only female to speak at the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. The home is also a National Historic Landmark.
Little Rock Nine Memorial
A trip to the Arkansas State Capitol is not complete without a stop at the Little Rock Nine Memorial, a testament to the nine African-American students who desegregated Little Rock Central High School.
Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
The museum features exhibits on African-American entrepreneurs and innovators, fraternal organizations and racial integration. It also offers a variety of educational resources.
In addition to the Arkansas locations, the trail’s famous sites include the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., the Greensboro, N.C., Woolworth’s, where sit-ins began, the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., and Dr. King’s birthplace in Atlanta, Ga.
The website civilrightstrail.com profiles these landmarks and offers an interactive map, interviews with foot soldiers, past and present photographs and 360-degree video. Featured on the site is Little Rock resident Sybil Jordan Hampton, along with Katherine Sawyer of Topeka and Dorothy Lockett Holcomb of Farmville, who discuss their experiences during school integration after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education court decision.
The 12 state tourism agencies known collectively as TravelSouth USA, including Arkansas Tourism, created the trail list.
About Arkansas Tourism
Arkansas Tourism, a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, strives to expand the economic impact of travel and tourism in the state and enhance the quality of life for all Arkansans. The division manages 14 Arkansas Welcome Centers and employs more than 60 staff members across The Natural State. For more information, visit www.arkansas.com.
Our thanks to Arkansas Tourism for sharing the information and images contained in this article.