The Integration Of Hoxie

May 19, 2004  -- Posted at 4:02 CDT

HOXIE, AR- Hoxie is just another rual Arkansas railroad town. It's hardly the kind of place you'd think of as a landmark in the civil rights movement. Ethel Thompkins, now the reference librarian at the Lawrence County Library in Walnut Ridge, was in 4th grade in July of 1955, that was the summer Hoxie schools integrated black and white. "At that age I did not think in historical value or this was a momentous occasion of that type of thing. To me it was like, ok, I got to get to another school, do I have to get up earlier, that type of thing. The usual kid type of thing."

Howard Vance was on the Hoxie school board in 1955. "We were sending about 5 them to High School here in jonesboro. The others we had in a one room school down there in a mudhole. It just wasn't right."

It was a decision that led to very little local press. The Jonesboro paper, then the 'evening' sun, ran the story on page 14. It was two weeks later when Life magazine that brought "unheard of" Hoxie to the rest of the south, and the rest of the south to Hoxie. For those opposed to segregation, those pictures, that title, served as a call to act. The segregationists came.  Bringing their own message of anti-integration, and working those in Hoxie who may have been sitting on the fence, or quitely on the other side of it. To the segregationists credit, they left the children alone. Their fight was with the superitendant and the school board. A fight that was battled in court, and very rarely violently. The case went all the way to the US Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis before it was stated once and for all, the segregationists couldn't stop Hoxie from integrating. For Vance and his school board, it was almost a year long fight, but not against themselves.