The Little Rock Nine: "Testament" sculpture by John Deering
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
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
The statues of the Little Rock Nine are found on the Markham street entrance.
Within Sight of the "Testament"
Arkansas Mosaic Templars Cultural Center gps 34.74087,-92.27672
The BHCA sponsors two annual workshops devoted to black history in February and June; and also administers a grant program that provides support for preservation and public programming projects related to Arkansas’s black history.
- Welcome to the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
Explore the history of African-Americans in Arkansas at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. Tour the center and join in the celebration of black achievements of the past and present.
- Current Exhibit
MTCC is proud to present our most highly anticipated exhibition to date: “Freedom! Oh, Freedom!” Arkansas’s People of African Descent and the Civil War.
Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
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