Updated 08/26/2023 at 8:00 a.m. ET
The Little Rock Nine changed everything the day they crossed the threshold of Little Rock Central High School in September of 1957. Under threat of death, the nine children integrated the Arkansas high school, demanding equal access to education for all.
Now, several surviving members of the Little Rock Nine are calling out another form of injustice, threatening to erase their hard work decades earlier. Earlier this month, the Arkansas Department of Education announced that Advanced Placement African American Studies won’t count as an AP course credit. The decision will no doubt discourage schools from offering the course and students from taking it.
On Thursday, Elizabeth Eckford, one of the nine children who integrated Little Rock Central in 1957, spoke out in defense of teaching students about the struggles she and her peers endured. “Historical truth deconstructs damaging myths of marginalized people omitted from popular history,” said Eckford at a Little Rock School District meeting, according to the Arkansas Times.
This isn’t the first Eckford and other members of the Little Rock Nine have spoken out against the decision.
“I think the attempts to erase history is working for the Republican Party,” said Eckford told NBC News in an earlier interview. “They have some boogeymen that are really popular with their supporters.”
Terrence Roberts, who was physically threatened by a white student wielding a baseball bat, told NBC News that students need to know what they went through and why. “At a “bare minimum,” Roberts told NBC, “there shouldn’t be laws restricting their ability to learn.”
The Arkansas Department of Education has said that they will be reviewing the course to make sure that it doesn’t teach Critical Race Theory, which was banned in March. As we’ve written about, CRT has essentially become a catch-all for teaching about race in the United States, and bans on CRT have been incredibly vague. It’s not totally clear how the state will determine whether teaching AP African American studies will violate their anti-CRT ban.