Central High School (Little Rock)

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President Bill Clinton led celebrations of the 40th anniversary of desegregation at Little Rock Central High School.
President Bill Clinton led celebrations of the 40th anniversary of desegregation at Little Rock Central High School.

Little Rock Central High School was the site of a major event during the civil rights movement in the United States.

LRCHS was the focal point of the Little Rock Integration Crisis of 1957. Nine black students, known as the Little Rock Nine, were denied entrance to the school in defiance of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling ordering integration of public schools. This provoked a showdown between the Gov. Orval Faubus and President Dwight D. Eisenhower that gained international attention.

On the morning of September 4, 1957, the nine black high school students faced an angry mob of over 1,000 whites protesting integration in front of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. As the students were escorted inside by the Little Rock police, violence escalated and they were removed from the school. The next day, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered 1,200 members of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell to escort the nine students into the school. As one of the nine students remembered, "After three full days inside Central [High School], I know that integration is a much bigger word than I thought."

This event, watched by the nation and world, was the site of the first important test for the implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. Arkansas became the epitome of state resistance when the governor, Orval Faubus, directly questioned the authority of the federal court system and the validity of desegregation. The crisis at Little Rock’s Central High School was the first fundamental test of the national resolve to enforce black civil rights in the face of massive southern defiance during the years following the Brown decision.

LRCHS was designated a National historic landmark on May 20, 1982. It was also designated a U.S. National Historic Site unit of the National Park Service on November 6, 1998. It is located at the intersection of Daisy Bates St.(named after the civil rights leader, formerly known as 14th street) and Park Street in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The current principal is Nancy Rousseau, who became principal in 2002. Central is considered by many to be the premiere public high school in the state of Arkanas, in terms of academics and athletics.

In 2003 and 2004 Central was the back to back Class 5A football champion with a record of 27-1. They were lead by coach Bernie Cox, who has won seven state championships while with the team. In 2005 the football field in Quigley Stadium was named in his honor.

As for academics, Central pretty much dominates. It has always has the most National Merit Finalists and National Achievement winners in Arkansas. Graduating seniors usually receive over $4 million in scholarships each year. Central has had seven Presidential Scholars in last decade and 49 AP Scholars in 2002-03. The school dominates at regional and state Science Fairs. It has the largest number of delegates to Boys' and Girls' State, the most participants in Governor's School Gifted and Talented Program, and has competed in chemistry Olympiad, Arkansas Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, mock trial, math counts, and SECME. In addition, Central has had 55 Stephens' Award winners for outstanding academic achievement.

Further more, Central has an outstanding International Studies Magnet Program, one of the most advanced E.A.S.T. Computer Laboratories, over 30 service, academic, and honors clubs available, award winning instrumental and concert band and choral programs, over 141 courses offered, including 24 AP courses and 4 foreign languages, and has many championship sports programs, including football, basketball, soccer, baseball, golf, tennis, and softball.

Central is posted by the admissions officers of the nation's most selective colleges and universities as one of the 16 best high schools in preparing students for college, has been fully accredited by the North Central Association since 1925, has the oldest charter west of the Mississippi in the Cum Laude Society, has top ranked student publications including The Tiger, The Pix, and The Labyrinth, has outstanding competitive speech and debate programs, a strong Air Force R.O.T.C., SECME programs, a national champion cheerleading squad, Drill Team, and Flag Line Spirit groups.

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