Central High School with a blue sky

NPS

Quick Facts

Location:
Little Rock, Arkansas
Designation:
National Historic Site
OPEN TO PUBLIC:
Yes

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that segregation in the public schools of the nation was unconstitutional. One of the first big tests of that decision came at Little Rocks Central High School. On September 23, 1957, nine African Americans attempted to enroll in the formerly all-white school. Arkansas Governor Orville Faubus called in the National Guard to “prevent violence” and to keep the students from entering. After a federal judge forced Faubus to remove the troops, the Little Rock police were unable to control the crowd and violence erupted. To enforce federal law, President Dwight Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division to protect the students, who entered the school and began attending classes. Tensions remained at the high school for some time, but an important first step in school integration had been taken.

Central High School is an operating public school and is not open for visitors to tour on their own. Ranger-guided tours are limited to groups of 10 or fewer and reservations must be made two weeks in advance. The best place to begin your visit is to go to the park visitor center, across from the school. Exhibits tell the story of those times, and interactive oral history stations give you a chance to hear the people who were there tell the story in their own words.