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The Little Rock Nine: "Testament" sculpture by John Deering

Updated on June 9, 2018

Address for GPS Coordinates

gps coordinates 34.74625,-92.29065

Testament by artist John Deering

"It was a seven-year labor of love for John Deering. It was not only his artistry but also his vision to honor the Little Rock Nine that gave birth to Testament, on the grounds of the State Capitol."

Taken from a brochure gotten in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. These brochures are free to the public.

The Flyers are in a realtor box stand between Testament and the Liberty Bell.


Justice and Civil Rights - Testament by John Deering

I have been interested in the Civil Rights movement since August 23, 1963. I heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's famous "I have a Dream" Speech . I was a very young child, standing in my California living room watching him orate with power and purpose. His words pierced my heart .

He was speaking from a couple of thousand miles away in Alabama, but after living in the Southern States of North America, I later realized Dr. King was also speaking for at least a half-century into the future.

I could not imagine that other human beings were considered different because their skin color was not white (or shades of pale ). As a child, I saw a head, arms, legs, a need for food, a desire for love and belonging, the ability to be moved emotionally to laugh and cry ...the skin or covering of the human did not make the person a different class or designation of being. I was a little kid, and it was simple to see these facts add up.

A tiger has stripes, a leopard spots, a kitty cat can have any number of markings, but they are still felines and animals. A Siamese cat is no better or more valuable than a Leopard. A Redbird does not have more rights than a Bluebird. A tree that bares avocado does not become subservient to an apricot or oak.


Testament: by John Deering Memorial to the Little Rock 9, at the Arkansas State Capitol

Testament - The Little Rock Nine (9)
Testament - The Little Rock Nine (9) | Source
A closer view.
A closer view. | Source
Jefferson Thomas - Passed on 9/7/10 Elizabeth Eckford placed the wreath on the statue, to identify which one he was.
Jefferson Thomas - Passed on 9/7/10 Elizabeth Eckford placed the wreath on the statue, to identify which one he was. | Source
The Flowers and Wreath a Memorial to the passing of one of The Nine
The Flowers and Wreath a Memorial to the passing of one of The Nine | Source
Testament - The Little Rock Nine (9)
Testament - The Little Rock Nine (9) | Source
In God We Trust - Liberty bell sits in front of a closed gas station, under a marble cover...while the Little Rock Nine are out in the weather...
In God We Trust - Liberty bell sits in front of a closed gas station, under a marble cover...while the Little Rock Nine are out in the weather... | Source
Source

1960's History Books Left Off Segregation

In 1967 I was in the third grade. That year each student was assigned to report on a State. They were chosen for us. At the time I lived in Alhambra, California unaware of the privilege I had.

I got Arkansas. I learned about the State Bird - it is the Mockingbird, the State Tree- is the Pine, the Flower is the beautiful Dogwood and so on. It was an omen.

Our books and lessons never talked about desegregation, integration, or segregation.

There was no internet and no information Highway. We got information in our textbooks a few television broadcasts and our parents. We were in the dark about Little Rock, Arkansas and Central High School.

How would I know that in 1976, my first husband would take me back home to his family's homeplace in rural Arkansas? His family lived an extreme rural lifestyle.

Their homestead was at the foot of the Ozark Mountains. The population of their town of Dover, Arkansas was 333.

In Southern California, we had a lot of concrete and in comparison, much less greenery.

I was in awe of the beautiful trees and wild growth.

It was a surreal experience as we slowly drove through town, a mere ninety miles from the capital of Little Rock, Arkansas. I would not visit Little Rock until 1981.

There in the town square, all the locals were hanging out going about their business.

Old men in overalls were whittling and gossiping four deep on a bench in front of Bishop's Drug Store and Taxidermy.

We continued through going North on Scenic Hwy 7 on the way out to his family home. Teenagers walked through town, proudly displaying their shotguns and boxes of shells. It was hunting season.

It startled me. I just came from Southern California and an entirely different world. My first thought was to duck for cover. My husband laughed.

Several weeks after my arrival, I realized that signs posted at both ends of the town which read; "Warning, [deragoratory term for African Americans,] Negroes' if yer not out of town by sundown, You will be hung;" was directed at human beings!

That was 1976. I had entered a real-life scary movie! I was too young to know then, that Truth is Stranger than fiction.

It was not until after 2000 that People of Color moved to the town - honestly, I don't know why they would want to.


Little Rock Nine History Documentary

2006 A Famous Hanging Tree Remains Near Town Square

In 2006 a famous "hanging tree" was still planted next to Dover Town Square in the original county seat. They had Militia Wars to fight segregation and to this day still want the South to rise again to her former fantastic origins.

For those who live in places where the Civil Rights battle was over long ago, it is hard to imagine that people who could not read or write, and steeped in ignorance - (Churches on every street corner, and boasting Christianity), feel superior to people with darker skin.

In Little Rock, in the 1970s there were still separate entrances, drinking fountains and public pools for blacks and whites.

The Civil Rights movement is not so far removed from here. I looked forward to this time thinking that with more education would come tolerance. This has not happened. The "old guard" is dying out, Bishop's Drug Store is closed but generations have been raised in ignorance and hate and the new guard continues the injustice.


A War Rages for Human and Civil Rights and Equality For All

On September 15, 2010, I went to visit the Testament sculpture of The Little Rock Nine. Instead of my quick daily drive-by,

I drove in and parked.

Even though I still care about the Civil Rights movement, and cannot stand injustice or prejudice, I have become weary to bear this emotional load. It is easy just to let it be a thing of the past.

Last week, one of the Little Rock Nine passed away. Jefferson Thomas; whose quote, is forever inscribed by artist John Derring in bronze; "As a youth, God blessed me with the courage of men. As a man, He gave me the spirit of youth." (Thomas)

I heard it on the news, but with all of the other global events (Hurricane Katrina), I did not take it to heart.

I walked closer and observed the expressions captured by the sculptor. I snapped photographs as I walked. on this beautiful September. My heart stirred again. I went around and read the nine quotations inlaid at the feet of the Dais. They are spaced evenly in this circle.

It was September 11, 2010.

As I took the steps of a free white woman, bending over to read and take pictures, tears started falling.

In 1967, I felt called, stirred, moved to do something to help my fellow man, but I did not "know" the tribulation lived every day by a person of color in the South and Arkansas.

I can only empathize and hope to convey this sense to each reader.

Yesterday, on Saturday the 11th of September, 2010 - I focused on letting you see what I am seeing and hopefully conveying some of what I feel to you. I saw the wreath hooked on one of the statues of the Nine, but I didn't connect Mr. Thomas's passing.

I came home, put this Article together and searched for links, videos, and other historical data to make this interesting and factual.

One of the videos linked is a young person who created a YouTube video of the actual Integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas of that fateful Fall of 1957.It is well put together, and stirred my emotions even deeper.



The Warriors of The Nine Lays Heavy on my Heart

There were news articles about Jefferson Thomas's passing and his Obituary. It was while reading these that I learned an incredible thing about The Little Rock Nine. The Plaques and Statues of the "Testament," rendered of each of the Little Rock Nine, are not in any particular order. The reason for this is, they want to be known as The Little Rock Nine - not Individuals. Without the strength of each other, and Ms. Daisy Bates - They could not have had the courage, and fortitude to stand against the tide of violence, ignorance, and hatred.

The wreath and other flowers put on Jefferson Thomas's likeness was the first time an individual was distinguished from the others. Elizabeth Eckford did ask that they are remembered as The Nine.

Today, Sunday, September 12th, I returned to pay my respects, and to take a closer look this "Testament" of the Little Rock Nine.

The expressions on the faces of The Nine and their postures captured by John Deering are real to life.

I looked up and across the street sits the Department of Education within a few hundred yards of the "Testament." This Arkansas State Agency has been embroiled in this same desegregation lawsuit for over 50 years.

I photographed the empty flagpole that stands proudly next to the Department of Education. I captured some ghosts.

There is a Covered Liberty Bell Structure within a few feet of the"Testament." "In God, We Trust" is inscribed on the structure sheltering the bell.

Nine young Students stand against prejudice and ignorance in the elements. These nine are heroes of the United States of American History.

Wiping the tears from my face, I just shake my head, and go home...

Testament at the State Capitol, Little Rock, Arkansas

A
The Arkansas State Capitol coordinates 34.74625,-92.29065:
1 Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, USA

get directions

The statues of the Little Rock Nine are found on the Markham street entrance.

B
Arkansas Department of Education 34.74634,-92.29033:
4 Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, USA

get directions

Within Sight of the "Testament"

C
Little Rock Central High School Historic Site @34.73646,-92.29983:
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, Little Rock, AR 72202, USA

get directions

Mosaic Templars Cultural Center

A
501 W. Ninth Street, Little Rock, AR:
501 W 9th St, Little Rock, AR 72202, USA

get directions

Built by hard work and determination. Much of the recent Little Rock civil rights work and historical figures are highlighted.

Little Rock Nine - Elizabeth Eckford Mothershed

© 2010 Lori J Latimer

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    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      6 months ago from Central Florida

      Your heartfelt memories and feelings of wanting equality for all are important statements to share here. Try not to let the ingrained way of thinking in the area get you down. It's important to stay in touch with others who believe in fairness and justice for all. I joined Indivisible and started a group in my retirement community in Florida. We have 100 women in the group now. Besides taking action to influence politics, we help each other keep up our spirits in these trying times.

    • LillyGrillzit profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori J Latimer 

      2 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      Thank you! I appreciate your comments.

    • sybol profile image

      sybol 

      2 years ago

      I really enjoyed reading your article. I learned or should I say felt more from your article. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. This keeps the "realness" of history alive.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 

      3 years ago from Beautiful South

      I moved to Little Rock in 1975, and I don't remember seeing any segregation signs anywhere. I worked as a news reporter for several radio stations and went all over the county. Where did you see these?

      In 1980 I bought a house in an integrated Central Little Rock neighborhood near the university, and, being white, I was subsequently run out of the neighborhood by black gangs when the "Sin City" of Highland Park was razed and these people moved into the nearby houses. We had war going on between the Bloods and the Crips, and the police were too chicken to deal with them. The name of the gang that finally took over was the 21st Street Posse, and they ruled from downtown in the Quapaw Quarter all the way to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The citizens finally raised a big fuss and the police had to take some action, but I think the action came when an African-American quorum court member named Willie Hinton and his followers put pressure on the city to act against this gang.

    • profile image

      Ankush 

      3 years ago

      You and I will meet again,When we're least expecting it,One day in some far off place,I will regcnoize your face,I won't say goodbye my friend,For you and I will meet again.farewell my dear

    • LillyGrillzit profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori J Latimer 

      8 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      Happyboomernurse, thank you for the very kind and heartfelt comments. This topic is a hard one to discuss, informing with love is the goal, and it is a bonus day when it happens. Thank you, and come back anytime.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      8 years ago from South Carolina

      Hi LillyGrillzit,

      I remember watching documentary footage of the Little Rock Nine during the 30th anniversary of the event and it left me shaking and crying. How terrible and also how brave, to have to face such anger just to get inside a public school building for a quality education.

      I see my hub about civil rights is listed in the related side bar, as yours is in my hub's side bar, which makes me feel good because this issue is so important and, unfortunately, is still in the news (as a glance at the current headlines from above attests to).

      Thanks for your hearfelt article and for sharing the wonderful pictures of the memorial to the Little Rock 9. Your article is a loving, respectful tribute to their strength of character.

    • LillyGrillzit profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori J Latimer 

      8 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      Dear Ms. Katiem2. I am interested in your Dad being here in Arkansas. When did he leave, what did he do here? Do you have a Hub about it?, I would be interested to hear the story of your Dad's time here.

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 

      8 years ago from I'm outta here

      Cool you really are on the move traveling about and telling us so many wonderful things about Little Rock. Have I told you that's where my Dad was raised. Great reviews of your travels. I loved seeing the pics of your experiences. Peace :)

    • LillyGrillzit profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori J Latimer 

      8 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      Thank you tonymac04! Thanks for returning! :0)

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Can see the pix now, thanks!

    • LillyGrillzit profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori J Latimer 

      8 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      Dear tonymac4, I am so glad you came by and gave this a read, your comments are very nice. Thank you.

      There is a slide show of 31 photos. If this is not visible to you, please let me know, so I can contact HubPages. It is showing on mine... :0)

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      I was very moved by this Hub. Wish yo had posted some of the photos you took here! I would love to see those statues.

      Thanks so much for sharing this personal story so meaningfully.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • LillyGrillzit profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori J Latimer 

      8 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      Write On ms sweetsusieg! Thanks for the read and comment! Thank you.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      I think by reading your article, and having watched history on television I am grateful that I was raised in such a way that 'people of color'... were just people.

      As an example; When my youngest daughter wanted to spend the night with her very best friend Amani, I said 'of course'. Amani's mother had to come in to make sure, then question me as to why I allowed it. I was puzzled from her question "Why? Because they are best friends."

      She then asked me about her being black, I was truly puzzled and I asked her "What's color got to do with friendship?" She told me I was the weirdest white person she'd ever met, but she said it with a smile.

      She explained to me the difference and some of the things she has had to suffer in her life. I think I prefer to be the 'crazy' white woman who likes people for being people.

    • LillyGrillzit profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori J Latimer 

      8 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      Thank you MyMastiffPuppies, This was a tough subject to do, and I could have sugar coated it, but I think in the telling of truth, it hurts at first, but then Healing can begin. Thanks for stopping by for a read.

    • MyMastiffPuppies profile image

      MyMastiffPuppies 

      8 years ago

      wow, what a story, awesome job on such an important subject. It is amazing just how recently things were still so backwards. Thanks for sharing your personal story!

    • LillyGrillzit profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori J Latimer 

      8 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      Hi cheaptrick, thank you for the read and commenting. The HBO special about the Gangs of Little Rock, is about 10 or 11 years old. Much has changed since then, much. The neighborhood I live in used to be considered 'the hood', and next to the Governor's Mansion Downtown was the 9th Street Posse, and Citizens took the neighborhoods back. In South West Little Rock, there is a lot of violence - unfortunately, follow the poverty and that is what will be found.

      Many of those old gang bangers, became ministers and leaders in their communities. My Hub about Chief Master Anderson, is one hero who has been working with inner city kids and families for the past several years.

      https://hubpages.com/politics/Determination-and-De...

      Thank you again for your thoughtful comments. In CA we had race problems, but now I know there was a different sort of violence afoot.

      Peace

    • cheaptrick profile image

      cheaptrick 

      8 years ago from the bridge of sighs

      Very well presented L.I graduated from a high school that was in the worst part of town in 1968.We had two or three race riots a week.Peaceful kids left through the side and back doors as soon as they started[usually in the cafeteria]and met at a near by park...I can attest to the cruelty that went on from both sides as things got worse.But I also saw whites and blacks help each other occasionally when someone was hurt.I just watched a documentary on Gangs in Little Rock,seems to be one of the worst in the country.Don't think I'd want to visit.

      Dean

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