In the 1960s, while other middle-school students were worrying about letter jackets or boyfriends or saddle shoes, LaVerne Bell-Tolliver was simply trying to stay sane. Bell-Tolliver’s parents had volunteered her to integrate Forest Heights Junior High in Little Rock in 1961, and as the only black student in a crush of white ones, she was always on guard. Boys pushed other students into her, crowing that her blackness would rub off onto them. Teachers ignored her raised hand and gave her low grades. For the two long years she was the only black student at her middle school; she sat by herself at lunch.
“My realm was surviving,” she told me recently, in a café in Little Rock. “I was depressed the whole time, and I actually had ulcers by ninth grade.”
Bell-Tolliver looks at Little Rock schools now, though, and wonders if her years of hell were all in vain. In the decades since the schools were first integrated, Little Rock has become a more residentially segregated city, with white residents in the northwest part of town and blacks in the southwest and south. Because the vast majority of children attend schools in their neighborhood, the schools have become re-segregated too.
[For more of this story, written by Alana Semuels, go to http://www.theatlantic.com/bus...-little-rock/479538/]