The Hoxie story, now fifty-six years old, is a historical reflection of decision making that touched the lives of 21 African American students, their families, and community, and is considered the most successfully story of diversity in the State of Arkansas. Although many often think of Central High School, the Little Rock 9, as the first school to encounter resistance to integration plans in the State, two years prior to that crisis, there was Hoxie!
May 17, 1954 the United States Supreme Court renders its decision in the combined NAACP school integration cases under the heading of Oliver L. Brown et. al v. Board of Education of Topeka KS, et, al, which overturned the “separate but equal” ruling in the Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896. The Supreme Court of the United States mandated to integrate schools “with all deliberate speed.”
June 25, 1955 Hoxie School Superintendent, Howard Vance, and the school board voted unanimously against separate schools and moved to integrate School District 46. The Superintendent cited three reasons for integration: 1) It was right in the sight of God, 2) It complied with the Supreme Court Ruling, and 3) It was cheaper for the school system.
July 11, 1955 twenty five African American students enter the doors of Hoxie School District 46 for the first time among the 1000 white students. LIFE Magazine was there and recorded the events of the day. By the end of the summer of 1955, an undisclosed number of white students were being withheld from school. Although LIFE Magazine portrayed this as a seamless process, the School Board was challenged as they sought legal council and called the Arkansas Council on Human Relations to assist. Not only did the School Board need legal council but also needed the support and commitment of the African American Community to withstand the intimations and harassments, and also prevailing Jim Crow laws.
February 23, 1956 the Federal Justice Department openly entered the Hoxie dispute on the side of the integrationists. It was the first action the Justice Department anywhere to back up the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Why is The Hoxie Story Important?
Hoxie is important because Hoxie by far, is the best story of successful diversity in the State of Arkansas. There are many lessons to be learned from this multi faceted event of 1955. Hoxie was first to do a full integration of K – 12 and the first “challenged” school to integrate in 1955.
Some of the precedents set were:
- Justice Department intervenes at Hoxie
- Hoxie was the first to display tools of opposition and patterns of desegregation.
- Hoxie provided a pattern of protection to individuals who attempted to integrate and the students selected for the project/event.
- Hoxie set a precedent by litigation which allowed access to federal involvement in other civil rights issues prior to the Civil Rights Act of the 1960s.
- The Hoxie event meant we successfully demonstrated leadership and an unrehearsed commitment of courage by black and white families during this challenging Jim Crow era.
- Hoxie serves as a benchmark and precedent for civil rights in providing equal opportunity to education.