52nd Anniversary Symposium

1963 March on Washington. Civil Rights leaders begin the march with fellow marchers holding signs urging an end to segregation and increased job opportunities.
March on Washington, 1963.

National Archives and Records Administration.

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, together with Philander Smith College and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock will host a 52nd Anniversary symposium September 24-25, 2009.

The integration of Central High School was a landmark battle in the struggle for civil rights. It forced the people of a city and a nation to look in the mirror and confront discrimination. In 1957, the controversy in Little Rock was the first fundamental test of the United States’ resolve to enforce African-American civil rights in the face of massive southern defiance during the period following the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision outlawing racial segregation in public education.

While the conflict between the state and federal government played out in public, the real battle continued in the classrooms and in the corridors of the school shouldered by nine young students who served as ambassadors of courage and their fellow classmates. The strength the Little Rock Nine displayed demonstrates the power of moral force in speaking the truth.

As we continue the journey they began, Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site is partnering with Philander Smith College and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to host a symposium commemorating the 52nd anniversary of the events on September 24-25, 2009.In the symposium, "Speaking the Truth: Social Issues and Politics in the 21st Century," distinguished local and national scholars and experts in their respective fields will serve as keynote speakers and commentators to further an exchange of ideas related to a number of social and economic policy issues confronting our nation today. Sessions will address one of the following topics:


Race Relations



Health & Wellness

The purpose of the symposium is to provide a forum for addressing issues that severely impact our political and economic structure and our educational and family institutions. Guest speakers include: Kerry Kennedy, international human rights advocate and daughter of Robert F. Kennedy; Little Rock Nine members Dr. Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, and Ernest Green; Max Brantley, Arkansas Times editor; Phillip Baldwin, President and CEO of Southern Bancorp, Inc.; Arkansas state representative Darrin Williams; Ralph Brodie, Central High School Class of 1958; Dr. Creshelle Nash, Medical Director of the Arkansas Minority Health Commission; Missouri Senator Maida Coleman; and descendants of Homer Plessy and John Ferguson, principals in the 1896 Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson case; and many others who will further an exchange of ideas related to a number of social and economic issues confronting our nation today.

Download the conference program here.

All day sessions will be held at Philander Smith College in the Harry R. Kendall Science and Health Mission Center. The evening reception on September 25th will be hosted by UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson and will be held in the atrium of the Jack Stephens Center.

Click here to download a map of the Philander Smith College campus. For a map of the UALR campus, click here.

There is no fee for the conference and lunches are provided with advance registration. Registration has been extended to September 21st - Register by then to reserve a lunch. Click here to download a registration form. You can save the form as a Word document and complete it. Instructions for returning the form are included.

Note: Kerry Kennedy's appearance is made possible by the support of Jefferson National Parks Association, a nonprofit partner of Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site.

Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson pose together smiling for the camera.
Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson, descendents of Homer Plessy and John Ferguson (of the Supreme Court's 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case that established the concept of "separate but equal") pose together in New Orleans.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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