Hill Foundation, INC | Hoxie 21
     

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HILL FOUNDATION, INC

Just after the May 1954 United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, Hoxie made their decision. On June 25, 1955, that Hoxie School District decided against separate schools. The School Board moved to integrate School District 46, in Hoxie AR. The decision prompted by the school board and carried out by a united community, ignited the community to face the challenges of successfully going against the status quo. July 11, 1955 twenty-five African American children walked in to a new school of 1000 white students.

The Hoxie story is unique because of its small but slightly diverse rural population of approximately 3,000 people and impact in the district. Many articles, documentaries and research papers written regarding this event failed to accurately convey the impact. The school district board met and finalized the desegregation plan and enacted it without media fanfare. The news media did not record the impact that the decision had on the African American families. These reflections of the event are based on personal experiences of courage and commitment and are intended to heighten multicultural awareness.

The Hill Foundation was established as a vehicle of keeping alive the history and lessons which establishes the legacy of the 25 Hoxie African American students, their families, the school board and the community while divulging the political and personal courage it required to integrate a school system in a small Arkansas Delta town.


Why is Hoxie important?

This historical story is important because it happened prior to the Birmingham March, the Little Rock Nine and any other strategic planning of any organized movement. This untold story reflects courage and heroism of united efforts for their children’s education. These families challenged school desegregation during the unpopular Jim Crow era.


Founders

For years, Mom and I tried telling our story to different media. It was not successful but we never gave up. The Hill Family’s story is only one of the 17 families who bore the brunt of the 1955 experience. Many sources conclude there was not an impact on the African American community, which is not true. In 1955, these courageous African American parents were pioneers who faced intimidations, threats and challenges as they stood alone in their quest for an educational opportunity for their children

The Hoxie21website provides additional insight and untold perspectives and experiences of historical and cultural significance into the everyday way of life in this northeast Arkansas Delta County. Most often when presenting the story, many commenters say, “I didn’t know Black folks lived in northeast Arkansas not to mention hearing of the Hoxie21 story.”

Concurrent with the founding of the Hill Foundation, Inc., in 2003, research and documentary insight into African-American life in the trans-Ozarks-Delta counties of the Arkansas Delta we also began with the inclusion of a strategic partner: Rhodes College, Memphis, TN. Our story served as the benchmark for digitized website: www.crossroadstofreedom.org

The story has been presented and has captured many diverse audiences including: Rhodes College, Barret Lecture Series, AR State University, Blue Symposium, Department of Interior, Rotary Clubs, University of Tennessee, FedEx Women’s Forum Ozarka College, Jonesboro Rotary, Paragould Rotary, Kiwanis Club of Walnut Ridge, Walnut Ridge Middle School, The Anthony School, Little Rock, Minority Studies Group, ASU, Lions Club of Lawrence County, Arkansas Council for Social Studies, National Council for Social Studies.

Many thanks to everyone for preserving documentation and special thanks to my grandmother, Ellen Mary Montgomery, for preserving many of our sources of information.

Rosemary Hill - Co-Founder

The late Rosemary Hill (1927-2005) and Marshall (1924-1970) were born in Walnut Ridge, AR. Rosemary attended school there and private school in Cotton Plant. She married her childhood sweetheart, Marshall Hill. From their union came two children Wesley Hill and Fayth Hill. Marshall served in the US Army, a recipient of 4 bronze stars, returned from war to fight for his children’s education. Rosemary worked in a pressing shop and Marshall owned his own business. Both were actively involved and spearheaded many of the community activities in the African American community. Fayth states “Mom served as mediator and Dad was the first African American man to testify on behalf of the school board in court. Due to the many challenges of the integration, Dad was blackballed from work in the county and without a job, relocated to IN. Mom soon joined Daddy. Wesley and I stayed with our grandparents until 1959 attending Hoxie School and then the family reunited” Fayth and her Mom, the late Mrs. Rosemary Hill, co founders of Hill Foundation, Inc. served on several panels upon the release of the filmed documentary, Hoxie: The First Stand, produced by Professor David Appleby of the University of Memphis. This documentary aired nationally on PBS. In Indiana, Mrs. Hill was a licensed practical nurse and graduated from Purdue and retired from the City of Gary Health Dept. She maintained her civic mindedness and caring for others by serving on many boards and being a community activist.

Fayth Hill Washington

Fayth and her brother Wesley were also born in Walnut Ridge and was in the fourth grade when she entered the doors of the new school. She remembers the crowds and many cars lined on both sides of the street as she walked up to the school. It was nice as they had all of the amenities but it wasn’t nice to hear the name calling and being hit by rocks or reading “Lil Black Sambo” aloud in class. She remembers several students and entire families left Hoxie immediately due to the disturbances in the town. Fayth is published a chapter in Learning Together at Last, Memories of the Segregation of the Arkansas Public School System. The Hoxie Experience, Fayth authored, is about her brother’s athletic challenges during the desegregation years at Hoxie. Fayth is also writing a book, Hoxie21: The Hill Story. She is unwavering in her commitment to the foundation and is involved in day to day operations, community service project, preservation and restoration of Scott Cemetery, and the erection of the monument at the Little Rock Capitol and Hoxie. Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, a public service organization and attends St. Andrew A.M.E. Church. Fayth attended Philander Smith College, and worked a Masters Degree at the University of Memphis in Public Policy and African American Studies. She is retired from IBM and FedEx. Fayth has two young adult children.

J’Bunta L. Washington - Co-Founder

I just happened to inherit this history by being born into a socially active family. I never met my grandfather, Marshall Hill but my Grandma Rosemary kept his spirit alive as she often spoke of him and by doing do, my role models were created. The strength it required for such a stance to occur during the Civil Rights era and against social injustices and the status quo warrants my love, respect and honor.

The passion and dedication was passed on in their children and the example of leadership and involvement is still alive. They never forgot their beginnings and spoke of Hoxie and Walnut Ridge often. My linage thankfully includes my mom, Fayth Hill Washington, who was a fourth grader. She is now a living legacy, a passionate supporter and driver of the history of the 1955 desegregation of Hoxie, AR. She too can immediate speak of her childhood in Hoxie and Walnut Ridge. So naturally, as a family totally involved, including my Uncle Wesley, I am honored to support the legacy they provided.

I am personally involved and committed to serve in unlimited capacities to chronicle this vital history and place it into historical context. As teacher in the public school system, I see no limits to the lessons to be taught and learned, both then and today regarding diversity. This significant story leans opportunity for us to develop innovative ways for people to learn, come to terms with the complexities of historical period and example of American History. I often take advantage of providing a teaching moment by allowing some students to enact with past history by showing the documentary and inviting mom in as a guest speaker.

     
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