July 20, 2016 Edition

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Local event celebrates
Hoxie's 'First Stand'

Aubree Hughart
Staff Writer

On Saturday, several gathered for a reception celebrating the events of 1955, which have come to be known as "Hoxie: The First Stand."

The Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce held the event, which was hosted by Executive Director Fran Cavenaugh at The Studio in downtown Walnut Ridge.

Cavenaugh welcomed attendees and announced that the Hoxie School District has agreed to allow the placement of a museum replicating the Hoxie Colored School to be located on their campus.

Plans have been drawn up for this museum, and the cost of the school replica is estimated to be $300,000. There will be multiple fundraisers to help with the costs, and the Chamber is searching for various grants, as well.

Cavenaugh stated that she believes it is long overdue for the world to know the story of the Hoxie integration.

"It's 61 years since integration happened," she said. "It's time this history was known. We want this to be a world-class museum and a staple for civil rights education."

Hoxie was the third school in Arkansas to integrate, and the first school in the state to establish an all-inclusive integration for all the grades. This event happened in 1955, following the Brown vs. the Board of Education Supreme Court decision the previous year.

The integration was quite successful and did not require the need for the National Guard's presence. Most people who were students at the time, including Melina Lacefield-Smith, said that to them, it was not a big deal.

"We enjoyed them coming to our school," she said. "It was the adults who had the problem."

Although some parents did pull their children out of school for a brief period of time after the integration, it was a relatively smooth process. Ethel Tompkins, who integrated from the Hoxie Colored School at the age of 12, noted that she was not scared about the move at all.

"The African-American kids in the Colored School had no good building, no plumbing, no playground and material that was not secondhand, but more like fifth-hand," Tompkins said. "To me, it was an exciting and new adventure and it meant I got to go to school with more of my friends."

Speakers at the event included Cavenaugh; Marc Moody, University of Hawaii professor and filmmaker interested in making this historical event into a film; Tompkins, who was the first African-American to graduate from Hoxie High School; and several other community members who were students during the time when Hoxie integrated its school system.

A committee is working on the preservation of the history of Hoxie's integration, as well as the establishment of a museum. Those interested in more information can contact the Chamber office at 870-886-3232.

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