School Integration 55 Years Later

This lesson is part of The Little Rock Battle for School Integration series, which introduces students to the actors and events central to the 1957 Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis. In this lesson, students learn about the state of Central High School and integration in Little Rock 55 years after the crisis.
Grade Level

  • Compare and contrast Central High School to your own school.
  • Analyze the connection between quality education and equality in society.
  • Apply lessons from Little Rock to your own life. 
Essential Questions
  • How does “white flight” make achieving school integration more difficult?
  • How can segregation be maintained within an integrated environment?
  • What actions can I take to support equal opportunities for all individuals? 

Graphic Organizer: Two Faces of Little Rock

Central Text


Learning Activities

Part 1: Word Work

Often you can figure out what an unfamiliar word or phrase means by paying attention to the language around it, or the context. Context clues are words or phrases that help you define other, unfamiliar words and phrases.

Adam Nossiter uses each of the following words and phrases in his article about Little Rock:  pall, prerequisite, bureaucracy, white flight, undercurrents, regress, and the achievement gap. Find each word in the article. On the handout, write the sentence in which each word can be found. Then write what you believe the word means based on context clues. Finally, use a dictionary to find the official definition and record it.


Part 2: Close and Critical Reading

Adam Nossiter identifies two primary divisions that existed within the Little Rock community over the performance of African-American school superintendent, Roy Brooks. He also explains the racial dimensions of the divide. While reading, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How is Mr. Brooks a symbol of Little Rock’s divisions over school integration?
  • Who supported Mr. Brooks?
  • Who opposed Mr. Brooks?
  • What reasons did each side give to support their opinion of Mr. Brooks?

Before, during and after reading, complete the following on the graphic organizer:

  1. As you read, list who supported or opposed Mr. Brooks. Use quotes from the text to explain the reasons for their support or opposition.
  2. When you are finished reading, summarize the article in one sentence.
  3. Share your summarizing sentence with your classmates.


Part 3: Community Inquiry

In his article, Adam Nossiter paints a picture of Little Rock as a community still separated by racial tensions. Nossiter’s article emphasizes the negative impact Mr. Brooks’ actions have had on the African-American community, particularly, the black middle class. His perspective is that of an outsider looking into the Little Rock community. In this part of the lesson, you will watch a video about life inside a classroom at Central High School. As you watch the video, you are required to take notes on a separate sheet of paper. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the filmmaker’s central point?
  2. How do the Central High School students feel about education and race?
  3. Are you similar or different from Central High School students?  Why? 

After watching the video, arrange the classroom in to two rows, with each student sitting directly from a peer.  Discuss the video for one minute, then rotate clockwise to a different student. This is sort of like speed dating.  (Note: 5-10 rotations are ideal, as the goal is to get students to debrief about the video with each other.) Once the final rotation is completed, facilitate a larger group discussion that connects the video and the article. How do they tell similar, yet different, stories about the state of integration in Little Rock? Are there parallels between the article and video, or are they completely different?


Part 4: Write to the Source

Read “The Little Rock Desegregation Plans Go Back to Court.” After reading the article, compose a letter to the U.S. District Judge, Brian Miller. In your letter tell Judge Miller how you think he should resolve the Little Rock desegregation suit. Propose a solution, and explain why you believe it will improve or solve the problems the city of Little Rock is facing? If relevant, consider using quotes or excerpts from 50 Years Later, Little Rock Can’t Escape Race and “Integration of Little Rock High School: 50 Years Later” to support your solution.


Part 5: Do Something

As a class, brainstorm suggestions for your school district’s school board on the issue of racial, class, gender or sexual integration. How can local schools help ensure all types of people are included and have equal opportunities?


Extension Activity

Elders possess a wealth of information. Interview an older family or community member—parent, grandparent, aunt, neighbor or friend—about their personal experiences with racial integration. Summarize her personal stories, and combine them with your classmates’ to develop a compilation of your family and community histories, and their connection to integration.

Common Core State Standards (English Language Arts Standards)

CCSS: R.1, R.2, R.3, R.4, R.10, W.1, W.2, W.3, W.4, W.9, SL.1, SL.2, SL.3, SL.4, L.1, L.2, L.4

Abolitionists William Still, Sojourner Truth, William Loyd Garrison, unidentified male and female slaves, and Black Union soldiers in front of American flag

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