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Monday, December 24, 2012

'White' Christmas in Little Rock circa 1957

Posted By on Mon, Dec 24, 2012 at 5:55 AM

IMAGINE: Armed guards to protect school children.
  • IMAGINE: Armed guards to protect school children.

Something of an odd item in the Los Angeles Times. It ranges from the forecast of snow on Christmas day in Little Rock to the 1957 school crisis and Elizabeth Eckford's torment on her lonely walk to attempt to desegregate Central High School.

It ties President Eisenhower's statements on the Little Rock crisis to the current discussion over the school shootings in Connecticut, then adds some Little Rock-related historical notes:

"It will be a sad day for this country — both at home and abroad — if schoolchildren can safely attend their classes only under the protection of armed guards," Eisenhower said in a September 1957 statement that is recirculating in the days since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut.

There would be no snow for the holiday in 1957, and some segregationists were concerned there wouldn't be a "White Christmas" song either.

According to a December 1957 Associated Press report, rumors flourished that Central High School's principal had forbidden students to sing the Bing Crosby classic because a black student supposedly had complained. School officials denied the rumors. [Fox News' War on Christmas, anyone?]

1957 was also the Christmas season when some white Little Rock residents tried to boycott Arkansas Gazette advertisers, saying in a letter that the paper "has played a leading role in breaking down our segregation laws, destroying time-honored traditions that have made up our Southern way of life, and at last bringing upon the people of Little Rock the most insufferable outrage ever visited upon an American city."

All of which makes a snowstorm seem far less consequential.

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