Arkansas Civil Rights Symposium: Little Rock Central 55 Years Later set for Black History Month

CONWAY — The University of Central Arkansas will host a film screening and panel discussion on the role of the Arkansas Gazette in the Central High Crisis as part of its Arkansas Civil Rights Symposium: Little Rock Central 55 Years Later, on Thursday, Feb. 23.

The 30-minute documentary film, The Crisis Mr. Faubus Made: The Role of the Arkansas Gazette in the Central High Crisis, will be screened at 2 p.m. in the College of Business Auditorium. The panel discussion will follow, from 2:30-4 p.m. It will be moderated by Ernest Dumas, long-time Arkansas Gazette reporter and editorial writer, and will include Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, along with Jerry Dhonau and Bill Lewis, Gazette reporters who covered the Central High Crisis; and Wadie Moore, who graduated from the segregated Horace Mann High School in 1968 and went on to become the first black newsroom employee at the Arkansas Gazette, where he was a sportswriter and editor until the paper closed.

Also that day, there will be an 11 a.m. lecture by Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who sent the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army to escort the Little Rock Nine into the school and overturned Faubus’ order, at 11 a.m., also in the College of Business Auditorium.

All events are free and open to the public.

The film’s title echoes the headline of a 1957 editorial that ran in the late Arkansas Gazette. Under the leadership of owner J.N. Heiskell, who served as editor for 70 years until he died at age 100, the Gazette became the first newspaper to win two Pulitzer Prizes in the same year for its coverage of the integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957 as Gov. Orval Faubus called out the National Guard to prevent nine black students from entering the school.

“Important history was made in Little Rock through all that surrounded the Little Rock Nine, Mr. Faubus, President Eisenhower, and the Gazette,” said Dr. Rollin Potter, dean of UCA’s College of Fine Arts and Communication. “Black History Month is an appropriate time to revisit this time and also to discuss where we are now and what our future is.”

The Gazette won the Pulitzer for Meritorious Public Service, and its executive editor, Harry S. Ashmore, won the prize for editorial writing. The Gazette’s stance for law and order served as a voice of reason during those tumultuous months, according to the Pulitzer citation.

“The Faubus symposium activities, along with those that are already scheduled for Black History Month, move us one step closer to making certain our students are culturally competent,” said Ronnie Williams, vice president of Student Services at UCA.

Mr. Faubus screened at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and the Ozark Foothills Film Festival in Batesville. It won an Award of Merit from The Indie Fest.

The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation funded Mr. Faubus, by independent filmmaker Kevin Thomas Clark in collaboration with UCA. Donna Lampkin Stephens, assistant professor of journalism who worked as a sportswriter at the Gazette from 1984-91, was producer; Dr. Joseph Anderson, retired chair of the Department of Mass Communication and Theatre, was executive producer; and Mike Gunter, assistant professor of digital filmmaking, was director of photography.

Mr. Faubus is the companion film to the 2006 feature-length documentary The Old Gray Lady: Arkansas’s First Newspaper, which tells the story of the Arkansas Gazette from its birth in 1819 until its death on Oct. 18, 1991, when the Gannett Corporation sold its assets to Walter Hussman, owner of the Arkansas Democrat. Hussman then changed the name of his publication to reflect his purchase.

Academy Award-winning actress Mary Steenburgen, who grew up in North Little Rock, narrates the voice of the newspaper in both Gazette films.

Clark, a UCA alumnus, came up with the idea for the original Gazette documentary.

“The history of the Gazette essentially tells us the history of Arkansas as witnessed through the eyes of some of the nation’s finest journalists,” he said. “I hope these films serve the history of the Gazette well and impart to our younger generations what can be accomplished when talent, integrity and perseverance come together in the face of adversity.”

In 1974 the Trustees of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller’s Estate endowed the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation to continue the work of The Rockwin Fund. Governor Rockefeller set up The Rockwin Fund in 1954 and, on an annual basis from 1956 until his death in 1973, funded projects and programs he believed were important to improving the quality of life in Arkansas.

The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation whose mission is to improve the lives of Arkansans by funding programs and projects that improve education, economic development and economic, racial and social justice. During the past 30 years the Foundation has awarded more than $85 million in grants. Additional information about the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation can be found on its Web site,

For further information about the UCA activities, contact Stephens at (501) 852-2599, (501) 450-5605 or