William & Mary

Erin Krutko to Document 50th Anniversary Commemoration of Crisis at Little Rock Central High

One of the nine: Student Elizabeth Eckford at Little Rock Central High School, in Arkansas.On September 25, 1957, nine African-American students began attending classes at Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas.

Their presence, a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, in Brown v. Board of Education, signaled the end of racially segregated schooling in Little Rock and the culmination of a bitter struggle that captured the world's attention.

In 2007, the fiftieth anniversary year of this historic event, Erin Krutko, a fifth year Ph.D. student in American Studies, will travel to Little Rock to collect information for her dissertation, "'A Won Cause?': Civil Rights, Public Memory, and the Struggle for Educational Equity and Integration."

Erin is examining how the historical narratives, public memories, and personal reflections surrounding school desegregation have evolved over time. "On the one hand," Erin said, "You have color-blind conservatives arguing that Brown v. Board of Education and the stand-off at Little Rock Central High corrected systematic injustice. On the other hand, activists dismiss this narrative of progress and continue to call attention to our separate and unequal school system."

A few of these activists suggest that the battle to claim the legacy of the civil rights movement is a key site in the present-day effort to eliminate educational inequity. How school segregation and integration are remembered and understood - and resulting implications for the present and future - is the focus of Erin's study.

This spring Erin will visit the National Historical Site center associated with the 1957 "crisis at Central High" and interview coordinators of the fiftieth anniversary commemoration that is scheduled for this September. Then she will return for the fall events. Because the National Park Service will open a new facility in conjunction with the anniversary, Erin will have a unique opportunity to compare the narratives, exhibitions, and audiovisual presentations displayed in both centers and trace the evolution of this public memory.

Erin's research is made possible by grants from the Arts & Sciences Office of Graduate Studies and Research as well as funds from the American Studies Program. Because outside funding is mainly geared towards supporting students in the final stages of dissertation research and writing, Erin states that "campus support was critical in helping to launch my dissertation."

Research and travel awards from the American Studies Program, in conjunction with the Office of Graduate Studies and Research, help to pay for expenses that AMST graduate students incur while pursuing their research, including supplies and travel to museums, archives, and professional conferences. Students often leverage these early grants to obtain full funding from outside grant agencies. Your support of the W&M American Studies Program will make a difference.

To find out more about Private Giving, click here.