Hannah Arendt and Little Rock

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Desegregation of Central High School

Fri, 04/27/2007
2:30 -- 7 PM, 104 Computer Science Building
Event Category: 
Co-sponsored Event

In the fall of 1957, Hannah Arendt wrote an essay entitled "Reflections on Little Rock" after seeing a photograph of one of the "Little Rock Nine" -- the African-American students to be integrated into the previously all-white high school -- surrounded by a mob of angry white students. In her essay, Arendt criticizes the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, as well as President Dwight Eisenhower's decision to call upon troops to enforce the integration of Central High School in Little Rock. Although Arendt's text appeared only two years later, published in Dissent, it ignited a storm of controversy. How could one of the world's leading critics of antisemitism seem to advocate racial segregation in the American South? Should scholars include or disregard "Reflections on Little Rock" in their presentations of Arendt's political thinking? Does eminent political thought in one context qualify its enunciator to speak on other contexts as well?

The Hannah Arendt and Little Rock symposium indeeds to broach all of these questions, trying to put scholarship on the American civil rights movement in conversation with scholarship on Hannah Arendt. The intent is to cross the divides between political theory and legal history and between American and European thought. On Friday, April 27th, one panel will contextualize Arendt's Reflections on Little Rock with her political thought, emphasizing her delineation of the private, public, and social realms, as well as the European backdrop of her thought. The second panel will more broadly discuss the implications of the Brown v. Board of Education decision and federal intervention in Little Rock for the American civil rights movement.

Panel Information

Session One: Hannah Arendt on Race and Society
Maribel Morey, Princeton University
Dana R. Villa, University of Notre Dame
Adam Michnik, Princeton University
CHAIR: Anson Rabinbach, Princeton University

Session Two: Brown v. Board of Education, Little Rock, and the Civil Rights Movement
Nicholas D. Katzenbach, Former U.S. Attorney General
Randall L. Kennedy, Harvard University
Patricia J. Williams, Columbia University
CHAIR: Kevin Kruse, Princeton University

Additional Information

Co-sponsored by the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies, the Department of History, the Program for American Studies, the Program for European Cultural Studies, the Program for Law and Public Affairs, and the Department of Germanic Languages and Literature.

For information please contact symposium organizer Piotr H. Kosicki or Barbara L. Leavey .