Lola Dunnavant

Date Original



This is a single page of hand-written notes, recounting Lola Dunnavant's experience with the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Biographical/Historical Note

Lola Alice Dunnavant was born October 27, 1900, in Des Arc, Arkansas. She was the daughter of James U. Dunnavant and Helen May Johnson Dunnavant. James U. Dunnavant was born about 1862 and died March 2, 1934. Helen May Johnson was born about 1872 and died in 1947. Lola Dunnavant received her A.B. at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas; her B.S. in Library Science at Louisiana State University in 1951, and her Masters in Library Science at the University of Michigan in 1955. She was the school librarian at Little Rock Central High School during the integration crisis of 1957 and wrote an eye-witness account of her experience during that time. She died in February of 1980.


May 5, 1959
Oh, what a day! The school board
met today to vote on contracts.
There are three segregationists and
three moderates on the board. The
law to have extra members did not
pass. This morning [marked out] Today, I was in the library
typing the annual report to the prin-
cipal. Most of the teachers were down
in the conference room, listening to a
radio. The school board meeting was
being broadcast.
First a teacher came in and announced
that the principal and two vice-principals
were fired. Then, someone came in with
news that 24 teachers were fired.
Then the news that 43 teachers were fired.
No xxxx names were given except the three first mentioned. Of course,
none of us knew whether we were fired or not. I figured it out that
they were firing everybody except those for whomx places had been found
in junior highs or grammar sehcolls. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Later, I learned
had nothing to do with it, but that was my idea at the time.
M.C. said for me to quit trying to type the report, but I felt that
I would do better if I kept on working. So I went on typing thorugh
it all and had to be done over the next morning.
I went home convinced that I was fired. About ten o'clock another
teacher called and said that she had managed to get hold of a list
of the fired teachers -- would I like to hear it. So I got my
teafher directory and marked the names. Mine was not one of them, I'm
glad to say. What a day, what a day!
May .5, 1959
Two groups have been organized -- one called STOP (Stop This
Outrageous Purge) for the recall of the board members who fired the
teachers. (I forgot to say in my last entry that three board members
x --"the moderates"-- left the board meeting after a lot of
3 to 3 voting. It was after they left that the three remaining
members voted to fire the teachers. x There has been great dis-
cussion as to whether or not the remaining members constituted a
quorum. One of the teachers -- not a purged teacher -- came into the
library and got M.C. and me to look in all the books of parliamemtary
procedure to see whether there was a quorum or not. It was difficult
to tell.)
The other organizee group is GROSS (I can8t remember excatly what
that stood for -- what was the R? The other words were Committee
________ Our Segregated Schools, I think ) They were asking for
the recall of the three "moderates ". Whatever am I going to do about
voting? I believe in segration -- "Here I stand, I can do no otherwise,
x God help me, Amen." Yet, I cannot feel that it was right to fire
all thos teadhers like that. We have fought so hard for teacher
tenure -- we cannot sacrifice it now. And some of those teachers
-- well, I xxx canot fail to stand by them. They are fine and worth-
while people. Others, I care only to see that tenure is maintained
-- the due warning, the chance to defend themselves, etc. This is
indeed a problem. But how can I cast any vote which seems to go
against the cause of segregation?
May 26, 1959
The voting was yesterday. I watched the returns a long time on
television. The "moderates " won. This will save the teachers, but
it will likewise mean that the schools will be integratied next fall.
I don8t want integration.
June 1, .059
School is out -- Sam has gone to California. He insisted that
he would come back about the middle of July, but I told him not to
do that. It would be silly to trail back here in July as hot as
Ark. is then when he will be coming back in September.
August 10, '59
The 4 high schools - Central, Hall,
Tech, and Mann - will open day after
tomorrow. We were sure they would
open because a court had declared
the school closing was unconstitutional.
But we were surprised past
all talking about when last Tues.,
the school board suddenly decided
to open school on Aug. 12. Most
people think this was to get
ahead of Faubus, but I can't see
the idea in that. He closed the schools
after they were opened last year.
I think it was to keep the NAACP
from putting any more negros in the
The school had had a registration
period during last of July. 1 negro
registered for Tech, 5 for Hall,
and about 49 for Central. Using
the school placement laws, 3
negros were assigned to Central,
3 to Hall, none to Tech.
The negroes immediately started
legal action to let all who were
in districts nearer
white school and who wanted to go
to white school - this sentence is
getting away from me - well, anyway
to let them all go to the white
However, courts have not yet
ordered integration to begin or
increase during a school year. They
just said that it must be done
next year. So I think the school
board is trying to keep only the
6 negros - nor more than that. Makes
We had a meeting at Central,
then down at the admin. office with
the superintendent and board. Reporters
on every hand. I am so tired of
Then Dorothy, Margaret, Emily, and
Dovey came to my house for lunch,
In the afternoon, Mary and I
worked on the magazines.
"The Democrat" carried the news
that only one out of the three assigned
to Central would be coming there.
How I wish it were none.
August 11, 1959
Tomorrow - the children start to school.
Hall and Central each have three negros assigned. Only one is expected
at Central - one girl is in summer school
somewhere and anotehr thinks she
has enough credits.
Pupils at Hall 9:30-12:00
Pupils at Central 1:00-3:50.
Somebody asked me if I thought
we would have time to go home to
lunch. Not me! I shall not
poke my little blonde nose outside
that door. I don't know what
will happen, but I don't want to
get mixed up in it.
Tomorrow - on those long suf-
fering knees of the gods.
xxxx August 12
I wore my new pink dress for the edification of the children,
but none of them came into the library. for these three days, they
are staying in home rooms for orientation -- get them back into
how to go to Central, I suppose. xxxxxx Anyhow, that is what
we are told. Mary was asigned to help a new teacher in her home room,
and I was supposed to hold down the library. Sally came in and
worked with me. Sally is the daughter of a friedn who teaches at
Central, and she xxxxxxx came over to work in the library becasue
her older sister was gone and she would be at home by herse lf --
the junior highs haven't opened yet and won't until Sept. 8.

Physical Description



Integration; Racism; Schools; Students

Geographical Area

Little Rock, Pulaski County (Ark.)





Resource Type



Lola Dunnavant papers, MS.000115


Arkansas State Archives

Contributing Entity

Arkansas State Archives

Recommended Citation

Lola Dunnavant's notes on the integration crisis, Lola Dunnavant papers, Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.


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Lola Dunnavant's notes on the integration crisis