A host of national, state, and local leaders will gather together on Wednesday evening at Faneuil Hall to pay tribute to the “Little Rock Nine,” a group of African American students who braved angry mobs in the fall of 1957 to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Governor Deval Patrick ’82, Mayor Thomas Menino, Former Arkansas Governor and Senator Dale Bumpers, and seven of the original nine students will speak at the “50th Anniversary Celebration: Integrating Little Rock Central High School,” which will take place beginning at 5:00 p.m. This event is being jointly sponsored by the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, and by the City of Boston.  It will be free and open to the public.

The integration of Central High School in 1957 is considered one of the landmark events leading up to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  The violence and anger hurled at the students as they attempted to integrate the school were vividly captured in newsreels and photographs that shocked much of the nation. 

“As we look back at these historic events, we celebrate how far we have come since those frightening days, but we are also mindful of the challenges ahead,” said Professor Charles Ogletree ’78, founder and director of the Houston Institute. “We are hopeful that our celebration will include a renewed determination to continue on the path blazed by the Little Rock Nine and all of the other heroes, local and national, who have led the way.”

“Fifty years ago, a group of African American students braved violence and hostility to integrate Little Rock High School, a heroic event that touched off the Civil Rights Movement.  I am honored to have them here in Boston, along with Former Governor and Senator Dale Bumpers, to remember and celebrate these historic events,” Mayor Menino said.  “The Little Rock Nine’s message of justice and bravery is just as relevant today as it was during the Civil Rights Movement, and I am pleased that Boston could host such an event.”

Mayor Menino and Professor Ogletree will welcome the audience and introduce the panel discussion featuring seven of the Little Rock Nine and former Senator Dale Bumpers.  In addition, this commemoration will include musical performances by Berklee College of Music vocalist Lawrence Watson, and a presentation of “local hero” awards to several Boston-area civil rights leaders.  The program will conclude with remarks from Massachusetts Governor Patrick.

For more information, click here to read an article about the event published in the Boston Globe.