LITTLE ROCK (Aug. 14, 2017) – Powerhouse singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples will headline a concert to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High School, city officials announced today.
From the Delta-inflected gospel sound she helped create in the 1950s with her father, Pops, and her brother and sisters as The Staple Singers, to the freedom songs of the Civil Rights era, to pop radio stardom during the Stax era with hits “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself,” one constant has been Mavis and her singular voice.
As part of The Staple Singers, Mavis Staples recorded such civil rights songs as “March Up Freedom’s Highway,” about the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery marches, “Washington We’re Watching You,” “It’s a Long Walk to D.C.” and “Why Am I Treated So Bad,” in honor of the Little Rock Nine. Last year, Staples released her 15th studio album, “Livin’ on a High Note.”
The City of Little Rock, Little Rock School District, National Park Service, Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau and other partners have been working for more than a year to plan events to recognize the historic days in 1957 when nine black students became the first to attend Central High School. The observances open with a Sept. 22 sculpture dedication at the school and close with a commemoration ceremony on Sept. 25. A list of officially sponsored and other community events is available at CentralHigh60th.org.
FOX 16’s Donna Terrell will emcee the event that also features a multicultural community choir. Little Rock area residents interested in filling limited choir openings should contact Pam Wrather at 501-371-4592 or . A schedule of rehearsal dates is available here.
The concert, to be held at the Robinson Center, will follow a semiformal reception featuring cocktails and light hors d’oeuvres and beginning at 5:30 p.m. The show begins promptly at 7 p.m. Tickets are $170-$190 for the reception (concert ticket included) and $45-$65 for the concert. The box office opened today. Tickets are available for purchase at Ticketmaster.com or in person at the Celebrity Attractions Box Office located inside the Robinson Center.
Proceeds from the concert will benefit the nonprofit Little Rock Nine Foundation. The mission of the Little Rock Nine® Foundation is to provide direct financial support and a mentorship program for students to help them reach their educational goals.
Little Rock Central High School is recognized for the role it played in the desegregation of public schools in the United States, having served as the 1957 crisis epicenter. Nine African-American students’ persistence in attending the formerly all-white Central High School was the most prominent national example of the implementation of the May 17, 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education. Little Rock Central High School is the nation’s only national historic site with a functioning school.
From Sept. 22 through Sept. 25, a series of events will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High School by the Little Rock Nine. Using the theme Reflections of Progress, the events include the dedication of a sculpture on the grounds of Little Rock Central High School, an education symposium, a concert as a fundraiser for the Little Rock Nine Foundation, a panel featuring the children of the Little Rock Nine, an interfaith service, and the commemoration ceremony at Little Rock Central High School.
The events have been planned by a steering committee consisting of representatives from the City of Little Rock, the Little Rock School District, National Park Service, Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau and other community partners. For more information, visit centralhigh60th.org.