Surviving members of the Little Rock Nine are speaking out against the Arkansas Department of Education’s controversial decision to drop AP African American studies courses.
Elizabeth Eckford and Terrence Roberts are pointing fingers at Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R-AK) while reminiscing on the trauma they suffered back in 1957. “I think the attempts to erase history is working for the Republican Party,” Eckford told NBC News. “They have some boogeymen that are really popular with their supporters.”
Eckford and Roberts are two of the nine students who integrated Little Rock Central High School, testing the Brown v. Board of Education ruling that declared the end of segregated public schools. Nicknamed the “Little Rock Nine,” the students were met with an angry white mob on their first day, blocking the entrance. Eckford was the 15-year-old Black girl wearing sunglasses in one of the most recognizable images of the historic event.
Roberts remembers one of the mob members holding a bat and calling him the N-word, saying, “If you weren’t so small,” before dropping the weapon and backing off. “I’m thinking, ‘Wow, salvation by stature,’” Roberts said. “All nine of us suffered physically and emotionally.” He wasn’t surprised at the state’s sudden pushback on the AP course, realizing some people don’t want to confront history. Those that were a part of the trauma don’t want the evidence displayed. “I know there are voices pushing back. The question is, will they be successful?” Roberts asked.
Since the department made the decision, certain state school districts, including Little Rock’s, have announced that they will continue to offer the course. According to the College Board, 700 schools will pilot the class this year, with 200 colleges agreeing to accept credit for the course.
According to The Hill, Sanders ordered a curriculum review at the beginning of 2023 after the state banned critical race theory. The governor’s order included AP African American studies taught in only two school districts, including Central High School. Sanders claims she wants to focus on the “basics of teaching math, of teaching reading, writing and American history,” and said the state can’t “push this propaganda leftist agenda.”