Now one final note about the school year and Little Rock. What we don’t often hear about, what we basically never hear about Central High School history, is […] that the governor was so upset about the public relations disaster that accompanied the school’s integration, that he decided to shut down Little Rock public schools the following year. The integration of the school, this great moment of civil rights victory of American exceptionalism, lasted one year, and the public schools were shut down. Why don’t we know this part of the history? You know, there’s something really maybe too tantalizing about these nice narratives of our past. We can be ashamed of the shortcomings of our predecessors, but by keeping the story clean and simple, we can also be proud that our predecessors ultimately made the right decision and did the right things. In short, the Civil Rights Movement has been sanitized, because it ultimately casts a great light on the American character; that the American character can take its lumps, learn from its mistakes and then do great things. The Civil Rights Movement has been cast as a great moment of American exceptionalism when we all summoned the courage to do the right things, regardless of our political positions, where we are in the country, etcetera. Well, that’s just one big fat lie. Only a minority of folks rose to the challenge, and accepted it, and pursued it.
– Professor Jonathan Holloway, African American History: From Emancipation to the Present, Lecture 14: From Sit-Ins to Civil Rights (youtube.com)