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Department Of Interior, Environment, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. PRYOR. Mr. President, I rise today to thank the chairman, Senator Conrad Burns, and the ranking member, Senator Byron Dorgan, of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior for their support of a project that is most important to me: the National Park Service's Little Rock Central High School Museum and Visitors Center.

Due to Senator Burns' and Senator Dorgan's ongoing efforts, the new Little Rock Central High Museum and Visitors Center is back on track to be built for the 50th anniversary of the 1957-1958 Little Rock desegregation crisis. I thank the subcommittee staff, Bruce Evans and Peter Kiefhaber, for their help as well in making this project a reality.

This is important because in September of 2007, it is anticipated that we will have a very large 50th anniversary commemoration and celebration of the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis. Hopefully, one of the things that we will have there to showcase is a brand new visitors center that will allow people to learn about not only Little Rock Central High and the role it played in integration, but also learn about the civil rights movement in general.

I remind my colleagues and others listening about the events that took place at Little Rock Central High almost 50 years ago.

Little Rock Central High School was a place in 1957 where nine Black teenagers integrated the all-White Central High in Little Rock, testing the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that ultimately ended legal segregation in our schools in this Nation.

To its credit, the Little Rock School Board took Brown v. Board of Education seriously. When the Supreme Court said ``all deliberate speed,'' they took that literally. They looked at their calendars and thought: That decision came out in 1954. They probably thought they could not get it done in 1955, probably not in 1956, but in the fall of 1957, they made the determination that they could have the high school in Little Rock ready to integrate.

As these nine teenagers attempted to enter the doors of Central High School, they were confronted with an angry, rampaging mob. President Eisenhower was forced to order Federal troops to Little Rock to end the brutal intimidation campaign mounted against the Black children and to uphold the Brown decision.

The Little Rock Nine--Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown Trickey, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas, Thelma Mothershed Wair, and Melba Pattillo Beals--changed the course of American history by claiming the right to receive an equal education.

I must not let the moment pass without mentioning the amazing courage exhibited by Daisy Bates of Little Rock who was a civil rights leader and, by all accounts, was a key person in making equal education a reality in Arkansas and also in the Nation.

Little Rock Central High School Museum and Visitors Center will provide America with an understanding of the events of 1957 and 1958, the broader civil rights movement, and how the bravery of the Little Rock Nine still influences life in the 21st century. It will teach our youth that nine young high school students proved that all men are created

equal and that the rule of law is paramount in the democracy of the United States. It will remind the world that children all over America have the right to learn because of the courage and the sacrifice of the Little Rock Nine.

We have been racing against time to secure the funds to build the center in time for the 50th anniversary of the crisis. On June 9 of this year, I had the privilege of having a conference call with eight of the nine. By the way, all nine are still living. I had the privilege of having a conference call with eight of the nine and reporting news that Senator Burns and Senator Dorgan had provided the crucial $5.1 million for the Central High center in this year's bill.

The joy expressed by the Little Rock Nine made me once again reflect on their acts of courage and heroism. Their gratitude made me reflect on their continuing self-sacrifice and the importance of our--the Senate's--support to share their story with our current generation and generations to follow.

In the words of Minnijean Brown Trickey, the funds in this bill are ``an affirmation of a very beautiful and tragic story.''

Carlotta Walls LaNier said:

With this museum, visitors will remember the events of 1957, but more importantly understand the difference individuals can make in promoting equal rights and tolerance.

On behalf of Little Rock Nine, the Arkansas delegation, and the Nation, I express my deepest gratitude for the support of Little Rock Central High School Museum and Visitors Center. I thank my colleagues for ensuring that these extraordinary achievements are recorded and shared for a better America.


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