(LITTLE ROCK, ARK.) – From its founding in the 1880s until ten years after the end of World War II, the northeast Arkansas town of Hoxie was an agricultural town, a railroad town, a cotton market town. Its greatest assets were its location, at the junction of two railroads, the fertile farmland around it and its children, served by a school system that was a source of community pride.
In July 1955, however, Hoxie and its schools became objects of national attention. After the local school board moved to end racial segregation, acting on moral, legal and practical considerations, Hoxie became the object of attempts by outside forces to influence its path. “Remember Hoxie” became a rallying cry for proponents of states' rights and continued segregation: the incident spurred a surge of white activism and helped boom the political career of James D. “Justice Jim” Johnson. In the end, though, the Hoxie schools stayed the course and remained integrated. Over time, Hoxie’s notoriety faded, especially as the events of 1957 in Little Rock, which had been foreshadowed by the Hoxie controversy, unfolded.
“Hoxie: Right in ’55,” The Arkansas Capitol’s fall exhibit, recalls the saga of how this Arkansas town dealt with changing law and changing times, and what came of it. Vintage images and memorabilia of Hoxie and its schools, as well as documentary materials from the Arkansas State Archives, tell the stories of the town and the main actors in what one historian styled “the Hoxie imbroglio.” The exhibit ends by suggesting some consequences, including current efforts by Hoxie community members to preserve, interpret and help spread understanding of what happened in their town.
Today, more than six decades and more since Hoxie’s minutes of fame, community members of the Hoxie: The First Stand committee are working to create a museum that will preserve memories of the Hoxie desegregation and interpret the story for future generations. In 1955, the Hoxie school board, students, staff and, ultimately, the town, chose the right. That choice would create echoes far beyond the bounds of the Hoxie school district. In “Hoxie: Right in ’55,” we remember the events of 1955 and salute those who would preserve those memories as a legacy for the Hoxie of days to come.
Hoxie: Right in ’55 is on display in the Arkansas State Capitol’s first-floor galleries. The Capitol is open on weekdays, 7 AM-5 PM and 10 AM-3 PM on weekends.