Little Rock Central: 50 Years Later



8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25

Just the simple title of this HBO documentary -- "Little Rock Central: 50 Years Later" -- floods the memory banks of people of a certain age. The integration of all-white Central High on Sept. 25, 1957, was a national crisis that still hangs on like sores that won't go away.

It was the time of Brown v. Board of Education, one of the great Supreme Court rulings that dictated desegregation; it forced nine black teens to enter the school. The locals -- primarily Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus -- were reluctant, but President Eisenhower wasn't, and he sent in the 101st Army Airborne Division to protect the children.

The South was changed forever. Or so many of Americans thought.

Local brothers Brent and Craig Renaud -- who wrote, directed, produced and filmed on behalf of local Downtown Community Television -- did an earnest job, but they keep trying to expand a massive topic that keeps running too far ahead of them. So they often raise questions that are provocative but can't possibly be dealt with in a short stint.

While there have been great improvements, the school effectively remains separated by color, and what is particularly grim -- for lack of a nicer word -- many of the black current students who were interviewed seem to take for granted that they will never get ahead because of their color.

Minnijean Brown-Trickey, one of the children who integrated Central in 1957, has dour reflections and platitudes and standard wisdom never worked: "And so now we have a Supreme Court that is as ignorant as anybody else. Think about it: We can't use race in a race-based society. The tragic part of it all is that somewhere down the line, it will be the responsibility of some few kids to show us the way."