Hoxie 21 working to prevent their experience from fading into history

HOXIE, AR (KAIT) - Members of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce highlighted a significant piece of local history at its quarterly meeting Thursday.

Several residents talked about the Hoxie 21, a group of African-American students that integrated the Hoxie school system in the 1950s. The students may not be as well known as the Little Rock Nine, but they are now working to prevent their experience from fading into history.

"You have a story of obedience. You have a story of discipline. You have a story of diversity – can't beat it," Fayth Hill-Washington said.

Hill-Washington was in the fourth grade when she entered the doors of the Hoxie School District on July 11, 1955. She shared her experience Thursday as one of 25 black students to integrate the school. Ethel Tompkins, another member of the Hoxie 21, recalled one moment vividly from that first day of school.

"As they were giving us a tour of the school, we passed the library, and it was like I was in seventh heaven," Tompkins said. "I didn't care what anybody else did. You got books, I'm going to be happy here."

The two women are part of the Hill Foundation, Inc., an organization spreading the word about the Hoxie 21. They say the desegregation story in Hoxie has fallen through the cracks of history despite occurring two years before the infamous situation at Central High School in Little Rock.

"Like with anything sensational, there's always something that comes along that's more sensational," Tompkins said. "So the one that was before that gets played down."

The presentation Thursday kicks off an effort to raise awareness about the Hoxie 21. Organizers are holding a fundraiser Sunday afternoon at the Walnut Ridge Community Room to collect money for two planned memorials in Hoxie and in Little Rock.

For more information on the Hoxie 21, visit the group's site here.  (www.hoxie21.org)

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