Hearing the personal stories of black students impacted by the desegregation of Hot Springs public high schools brought to life the pain, loss and broken promises for the class of 1968. Through the poignant documentary, created by middle school students in 2010, Langston High: Before and After Integration, attendees at the Central Theatre experienced living history.
A special thanks to Ms. Minnie Lenox and Justice Thomas Anderson for their truth telling throughout the film, and during the vibrant Q&A session. A hearty thanks is also extended to Ms. Cheryl Batts for her instrumental work in the film's creation. We were also honored to be in the presence of Ms. Hazel Wright, poet laureate of VCK, for sharing her poetry and closing with "A Call to Martin".
During that first year of integration, when the all white male Hot Springs School Board promised among other things a new high school name and a new mascot, dreams and promises were broken. The black girls could not try out for cheerleader or T-Steppers, and very few extracurricular options were available. For the black boys, the athletic ones were allowed to play football and basketball. Only two teachers from Langston were brought to Hot Springs High: an assistant librarian and a shop teacher/football coach. In addition, no busing was provided for the black students living far from school.
Langston High School was a close-knit and supportive community, where teachers encouraged the students and expected excellence. The students quickly discovered at the Hot Springs High School, teachers did not care about the black students, and had low expectations. There was the sense that the teachers were afraid of these students, and there was no encouragement to apply for scholarships, or for furthering their education.
Thank you to all who participated, who shared painful memories, hope and lively conversation. We keep on learning and strive for a more just society.
Hearty thanks to Chris Rix, owner of the Central Theatre for warmly welcoming the showing of this documentary.
Photos top row: Langston Alums Minnie Lenox and Thomas Anderson; Hazel Wright, poet laureate VCK; VCK President Linda Ragsdale and Thomas Anderson
Photos bottom row: Langston Alum LaVenia Hicks with Dianne Rogers (VCK); ; Linda Ragsdale and Chris Rix, owner of the Central Theatre; Ongoing conversations