Hoxie: The First Stand
In the summer of 1955, the school board of our small, rural Arkansas town voluntarily desegregated its schools (we were the first in the Delta South to do so). Hoxie: The First Stand was one of the earliest, most important and least remembered school integration battles in the South.
The newly formed White Citizens Councils saw this as a test for southern resistance to the Supreme Courts desegregation decision in Brown v. the Board of Education and soon descended on the town. They organized local citizens to try to force the board to rescind its order, but the five members and superintendent, quickly deserted by their early supporters, stood their ground.
With the NAACP helping to keep the black families united, the board sought an injunction against the segregationists. On February 23, 1956, they drew for the first time an extremely reluctant federal government into a case that nullified state segregation laws.
Segregationist leaders were so furious over the loss that they turned on Governor Faubus in the next primary, forcing him out of his previous moderate stance and setting up the 1957 confrontation in Little Rock.
This is also a story of common men, disturbed by the Jim Crow culture in which they had been raised, who saw a chance to do the right thing and did it at great risk to them. It is a story of black families who, although they never sought integration, were courageous and steadfast when it was thrust upon them.
It is a story of community leaders who sought to subdue the racism around them while others were harnessing it for political gain. And, it is a story that was nearly forgotten.