For the first time since federal troops escorted nine black students into Central High School 49 years ago, the Little Rock school board has a black majority.
Dianne Curry won a runoff election Tuesday, meaning four of the Little Rock School District’s seven board members are black. The 26,000-student district has been predominantly black for years, but until now, it had never had a black-majority school board.
“Right now, they see a board that looks like them and it’s easier for us to connect with them,” said school board member Charles Armstrong, elected last month. “You’ve got a board that can reach out to the community.”
Until 1957, Little Rock had operated separate schools for blacks and whites. Despite a U.S. Supreme Court order, Gov. Orval Faubus sought to prevent nine black students from entering Central. President Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne to enforce the court’s order.
Federal courts have continued to monitor the desegregation effort since 1965.
“Maybe this is a sign of change coming,” said Armstrong, who is black. Previous boards had difficulties relating to the community because it didn’t match the racial makeup of the city’s schools, Armstrong said.