NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — It’s been over 60 years since 9 African American students integrated Little Rock’s Central High School.
The historical moment caught the nation’s attention in 1957, but before there were 9, many people didn’t know that across the river in North Little Rock, 6 students tried to enroll in class at North Little Rock High School.
These six men are described as brave, heroic, courageous, fearless and bold. They are known as the North Little Rock 6.
They tried to integrate North Little Rock High School, but they never went inside of the building.
Many people don’t know what the North Little Rock 6 had to go through. Our Re’Chelle Turner sat down with one of the men who is making sure their story is told.
“Today is a good day, it really is. I feel good,” said Richard Lindsey a member of the North Little Rock 6.
The 79-year-old lives a few blocks away from the North Little Rock High School, but things were a lot more different 60 years ago.
Richard was 17-years-old in 1957.
“The summer was coming and I was looking forward to being a senior,” said Richard.
He was set to finish out the school year at Scipio A Jones High School, the African American school in North Little Rock, but his aunt told him something else.
His aunt told him that he was going to school in the morning with other people, and they would be trying something.
The school day turned into a historical moment for Richard Lindsey, Frank Henderson, Eugene Hall, William Henderson, Gerald Persons and Harold Smith.
“We were going to walk up to the school and we were going to integrate North Little Rock High School on this particular day,” said Richard.
It was September 9, 1957 a day Richard vividly remembers.
“It was scary for the first time, they gave us these directions and they told us don’t look down, keep your head up and walk straight ahead,” said Richard.
Old newspaper from 1957 show the 6 teens and 4 AME minister’s as they made their way to North Little Rock High School surrounded by chaos and people yelling racial slurs.
“I was on the edge and their was a hand on my neck. I guess at first I might have been scared, but it just laid up there and the person said that they just wanted to see what a “*****” felt like,” said Richard.
They made it through the crowd and walked up the steps. Where they were approached by the superintendent.
“He told us that we cannot enter the school today, because what had happened in Little Rock last week,” said Richard.
Just days before on September 4, 1957 — 9 black students tried to enroll at the all-white Little Rock Central High School.
All eyes were on the natural state as the governor ordered the national guard to keep the students out.
Five days later, these 6 students attempted to go to school across the river, but they were denied entry into North Little Rock high school.
“It was over for the next 50 years as far as North Little Rock is concerned because Central took over and North Little Rock never existed, it never came up and not that much written or spoken about it. The newspaper did their daily thing. We were considered not important for 50 years,” said Richard.
They made their way back down the steps.
“They saying go home and don’t come back and all this stuff, but we kept walking,” said Richard.
Richard finished his senior year at Scipio A Jones High School. He and his friends became the unsung heros of North Little Rock High.
“Wow, there was nothing heroic about what we did. We did what we were told because we’re kids and it was 1957,” said Richard.
Richard still visits the old North Little Rock high school making his way to the top, one step at a time.
And while many don’t know the story of the North Little Rock 6. It was only a day in 1957, but a moment in history that continues to live on.
The North Little Rock 6 never enrolled in classes at North Little Rock high school, but later that month the Little Rock 9 entered Central High School for the first time on September 25, 1957.
In 1963, 5 black students attempted to sign up for classes in North Little Rock, but the school board rejected the application.
The school board adopted a plan to desegregate all grades.
On September 6, 1966 — 20 black students finally entered North Little Rock high school.
The North Little Rock 6 helped pave the way, and we wondered if they ever received any recognition.
Richard said that former President Bill Clinton honored them, he also has a plaque from state legislatures celebrating their bravery and if you every visit Military Heights Park in North Little Rock there is a sign recognizing them.
Richard said he and the 5 others graduated from high school and finished college.
Only 3 of the 6 men are still alive.
One is living in Los Angeles, and the other is currently living in Dayton, Ohio.
Richard is the only one that still lives in Arkansas.