Do you know what caused a crucial turning point for segregation in the state of Arkansas? Imagine it is the year 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education that segregated schools were unconstitutional. Now, three years after the ruling, the Little Rock Nine are placed into an all-white high school. This moment in time marked history for our state.
The National Guard was even called to ensure the integration of Central High School. They were deployed after Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a subtle warning to Governor Orval Faubus not to defy the Supreme Courts ruling after Faubus threatened using the Arkansas National Guard to block integration.
These monuments and their hidden figures allow us to reflect on the past. We do not usually think about city history when we think of active change. We do not think about the fact that there used to be labels on water fountains and separate sections on our bus. Most of all, we do not think of the hidden figures in our very community that helped inspire social change. Today, there are activists stepping back up to the plate after resting years on the bench.
Mrs. Misty Cartright, an 85-year-old African American woman, is one of them.
“Segregation isn’t about color, but about how we treat people,” Cartright said.
Cartwright is a prior social worker who has enacted change in many lives. In the 1960s she worked through many cases to get where she is today. “Seventy years I have been fighting this fight,” Cartwright said with a proud smile. That fight presses on through years of social ignorance, and this last year we were faced with the hard truths. The color of our skin has always defined our ethnicity, but as we have grown there have been prejudices set out on both sides. In 2020, we had an opportunity to visit our views on racism and our morals. The emergence of Black Lives Matter was a profound moment in our year of troubles, and people everywhere like Misty and Tracey Dae continue to pursue social change.
“Black, white, yellow, brown or whatever color you are; your treatment should depend on your character,” said Dae, a retired teacher that continues to work with social activist groups. “Sometimes that means being the bigger man, and other times you should know when to admit your wrongs.”
Black Lives Matter was created to fight for freedom, liberation and justice. There were multiple peaceful protests in 2020 that hoped to develop social change. Although the peaceful protests received criticism, there was a lot of realization through these events. There were multiple reform changes and a drastic development on dash cams and body cams for the police force.
Our country continued to push through these challenges during the race between Donald J. Trump and Joe Biden for President. Tensions ran high, but whenever inauguration came around- history was made. When President Joe Biden was elected as the 46th United States President, Kamala Harris became the Vice President and made history as she is the first woman in a presidential office of both South American and African American ancestry.
These moments in history show us that social activism can bring about not only subtle change, but lasting effects. Our country is constantly evolving. We may seem to be taking steps back right now, but history is bound to throw us forward into the future, espeically with the amazing work of activists like Cartwright and Dae.
Take the time this Black History Month to learn the history of your city! Find the hidden figures everywhere around you. Take the time to watch history being made. How will you enact social change?