Posted 22 Jan 2015
'The Road to Little Rock' will premiere on the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) Thursday, Feb. 5, at 6:30 p.m. 'Hoxie: The First Stand' will follow at 7 p.m.
'Judge Ronald N. Davies is not well known in Arkansas, but he is an important part of our state's history,' AETN Director of Production Carole Adornetto said. 'It was Judge Davies who found himself, in 1957, thrown into the case of Aaron v. Cooperand, the integration of nine black students into the all-white Little Rock Central High School.
'This story is a prequel to 'Hoxie: The First Stand' and another piece of the puzzle in understanding those perplexing times when desegregation of our public schools was being resisted all across the nation.'
'The Road to Little Rock' tells the story of one visionary judge and nine teenagers who demonstrated courage, honor, determination and responsibility. The story begins in 1957 as nine black teenagers sought enrollment at an all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1957 many school districts continued to ignore the 1954 Supreme Court ruling of Brown v. Board of Education that declared segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.
The story features a number of never before seen interviews with three members of the Little Rock Nine and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. It blends interviews with archival footage and primary source documentation to tell the story of the events that led to the integration of Central High School.
Viewers will be introduced to Federal Judge Ronald Davies, of Fargo, North Dakota, who followed the law, ignored political pressure and required the school district in Little Rock to integrate 'forthwith.' The ruling by Davies provided great urgency for the desegregation of public schools. The actions of these individuals would change the course of public school education in the United States.
'Hoxie: The First Stand' details one of the earliest, most important and least remembered school integration battles in the South. In the summer of 1955, the school board of a small, rural Arkansas town voluntarily desegregated its schools, becoming the first in the 'Delta' South to do so.
The newly formed White Citizens' Councils saw this as a test for Southern resistance to the Supreme Court's desegregation decision in Brown v. the Board of Education and soon descended on the town. They organized the locals to try to force the board to rescind its order, but the five members and superintendent, although quickly deserted by their early supporters, stood their ground.
With the NAACP helping to keep the black families united, the board sought an injunction against the segregationists. Eventually, they drew an extremely reluctant federal government into a case that nullified the segregation laws of Arkansas. Segregationist leaders were so furious over the loss that they turned on Gov. Orval Faubus in the next primary, forcing him out of his previous moderate stance and setting up the 1957 confrontation in Little Rock.
'The Road to Little Rock' is produced by Art Phillips of VideoArts Studios in partnership with the Arkansas Humanities Council, Fargo Public Schools – District #1 and North Dakota Humanities Council. Underwriters for the film include: Bell State Bank & Trust, Ronald D. Offutt Family Foundation, State Historical Society of North Dakota and University of North Dakota and the UND Foundation & Alumni Association. Major funding was provided by Border States Electric, The Forum and Warner & Company Insurance. Additional funding was provided by: American Crystal Sugar Company, Bobcat Company, Cass County Bar Association, Catalyst Medical Center, Discovery Benefits, Doug Burgum Family Fund, Erik Hatch Team, Fargo Public Schools Foundation, MDU Resources, Otter Tail Corporation, Robert Gibb & Sons, Straus Clothing, TMI Hospitality, Wimmer's Diamonds and Xcel Energy.
'Hoxie: The First Stand' is produced by David Appleby of the University of Memphis. It was awarded a Peabody Award in 2004 and the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Awards in 2005. Funding for the film was provided by the Southern Humanities Media Fund, Arkansas Humanities Council, Delta Foundation and University of Memphis.
The Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) is Arkansas's statewide public television network that enhances lives by providing lifelong learning opportunities for people from all walks of life. AETN delivers local, award-winning productions and classic, trusted PBS programs aimed at sharing Arkansas and the world with viewers. AETN depends on the generosity of Arkansans and the State of Arkansas to continue offering quality programming. For more information, visit aetn.org, or follow the AETN blog at aetn.org/engage. AETN is broadcast on KETS (Little Rock), KEMV (Mountain View), KETG (Arkadelphia), KAFT (Fayetteville), KTEJ (Jonesboro), and KETZ (El Dorado).