About the Lost Year Project

The Lost Year Project is the collaborative work of Sandra Hubbard, award winning documentary filmmaker, and Dr. Sondra Gordy, Professor of History, University of Central Arkansas.

Lost Year Speakers

The Women's Emergency Committee and Lost Year 45th Anniversary event, held at the Terry Mansion on September 14th, 2003. Left to Right: Dr. Sonrda Gordy and Sandy McMath, Reverend Wendell Griffen, Speakers. Sandra Hubbard, Organizer and Congressman Vic Snyder, Speaker. Former Governor/Senator David Pryor, Master of Ceremonies. Not Pictured: Pat House, WEC Chair

In 2003, Hubbard, a Lost Year student herself, produced an event at the Terry Mansion honoring the 45th Anniversary of the Women's Emergency Committee and the Lost Year students and teachers. Hubbard had asked Gordy to be a speaker at the event, and was aware of Gordy's work on the Lost Year teachers. The Women's Emergency Committee was a group of middle and upper class white women who worked during the Lost Year to open the public schools, and succeeded. Hubbard's documentary, The Giants Wore White Gloves, tells their story.

Gordy and Hubbard funded the Lost Year Project through grants from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In addition, grants were funded by the University of Central Arkansas, Presidentís Fund and the Fred Darragh Foundation. The Bridge Fund was primary in website development.

The project was developed in the fall of 2003. In the spring of 2004, they received a pre-production grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council, and filming of the documentary began that summer. Gordy and Hubbard traveled to class reunions at several of the affected high schools. In June 2005, former Lost Year teachers and students were interviewed on camera at Trapnall Hall along with humanities scholars and historians. Hubbard conducted an extensive interview with Gordy at Senator David Pryorís Office in 2004.

Other interviews included in the documentary are Arkansas historians Dr. Elizabeth Jacoway and Dr. C. Fred Williams. Lost Year Classmates interviewed include Cathie Matthews, Director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage; Supreme Court Justice Robert Brown; Estella Johnson, one of the first blacks to desegregate Hall High School's eleventh grade in 1959; Chris Barrier, a partner with Mitchell, Selig, Gates and Woodyard Law Firm; former Coach Oliver Elders, who arrived in Little Rock for his first teaching job at Horace Mann the year they closed the schools, and many more. Interviews were also conducted with students who did not attend school at all during the Lost Year or who made alternate educational choices, leaving family and friends behind.

Elements of the "Lost Year Project"

The Website

Early in the development of the Lost Year Project, Hubbard and Gordy knew how useful a website would be to join those affected by the Lost Year and allow them to tell their stories. Funded in part by the Bridge Fund of the Arkansas Community Foundation, thelostyear.com allows Lost Year participants to relate their stories from wherever they are located. The results of this information and the stories related have been part of both Gordyís book and the documentary described below. Both Gordy and Hubbard have collaborated on the website, which provides an instantly accessible resource and introduction to the documentary and book.

The Documentary

Sandra Hubbard produced and directed the documentary portion of the Lost Year Project. Dr. Gordy helped conduct interviews and was in charge of the historical accuracy of the content. The documentary is a tapestry of the tumultuous times, and the effects it had on the lives of those involved. The stories of the teachers and the students are moving and represent a wide range of human emotions.

Hubbard has woven individual stories of representative students and teachers embroiled in the Lost Year together with the political and behind the scenes overview via historians who have studied the period. "The plan was to produce a documentary that would have people leaving the theatre astonished that they didn't know this story, and wanting to learn more," says Hubbard. "The documentary will get them interested. The book will be a more thorough account of the events and stories of that time."

Hubbard has two prior documentary successes entitled "The Giants Wore White Gloves," also relating to the closing of the schools, and "Steve's Show," which captures the innocence of a television teen dance party in Little Rock in the 50's. Both premiered at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and garnered statewide and national recognition.

The Book

Dr. Gordyís book Finding the Lost Year: What Happened When Little Rock Closed its Public Schools was released in April 2009. It is available from the University of Arkansas Press from this website. The book is able to give more details than the documentary and is also written from the perspective of former students and teachers whose lives were profoundly affected by the chaotic events of 1958-59.

It traces events from May 1958 when Ernest Green, the first of the Little Rock Nine, received his diploma from Little Rock Central High, through the peculiar events that surrounded a year of denied access to education and finally the reopening of public high schools in August of 1959. The book strongly reflects the passionate comments and remembrances of many of the 3665 displaced students as well as almost 200 teachers of the period. "Most Americans do not even realize that the Lost Year occurred," explains Gordy. "Those who do know of it have heard only from the perspective of the power players in the community, the politicians: not from those whose lives were dramatically affected.

"The public doesn't know the life-long consequences that one year of closed high schools had on its children and their teachers. Whether students went to a school or not, whether they were forced to leave family and friends behind, whether they found a private or public school alternative, whether they left the state and never returned-- every consequence affected the lives of these young teenagers. And their circumstances affected their parents, siblings, and community. The book adds to the history of policy makers who thwarted desegregation, challenging the creation of a racially integrated community and setting Arkansasís capital city on a path that has played out for the past fifty years."

"Now in their sixties, former students are at a point of reflection and are finally processing the full meaning of this early dilemma which shaped their attitudes about race, class and politics.

"Additionally, the public doesn't know that a quiet force of leaders worked all year to take control of their schools and of their community. They do not know that Little Rock came to its senses in May of 1959 and voted for moderates to open the schools and restore public education. As an historian I must ask how anyone can learn the lessons of history if they have never heard the story?"

Biographies for the Lost Year

Biography of Sandra Hubbard:

Sandra Hubbard is well-known for her documentary work. She has been professionally active in television and film production for 25 years. Sandra Roberts Productions opened in 1980, in downtown Little Rock, where she was the first Little Rock female photographer. Working with major agencies on advertising, marketing, public relations and communications projects for major corporations in the state, Hubbard won many awards. She has produced for numerous national television channels, including ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, as well as international production companies in Japan and Italy.

Hubbard's company evolved into Morning Star Studio, a television production company in commercial communications and documentary filmmaking.

In 1993, she decided to try her hand at Documentary Filmmaking, and she found the story of The Womenís Emergency Committee. She thought the story of how the schools were re-opened in 1959 an uplifting tale of how the community turned the crisis around.

"The Giants Wore White Gloves," her first documentary, tells the fascinating determination of the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools, their courage, savvy and successes. These women led the community's moderates who were largely responsible for the schools re-opening for the 1959-'60 school year. The film premiered at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival in 1998, received national awards and attention, and aired on AETN, KATV and the History Channel. It is available at the Clinton Museum Store and the Central High Museum.

Interest in the Women's Emergency Committee springs from Hubbard's losing her eleventh grade at Hall High School, where she was a Lost Year classmate. After researching the period, she discovered that her high school re-opened for her senior year through the efforts of the WEC. Hubbard graduated with her classmates in 1960.

In 2003 she produced the 45th Anniversary of the Lost Year and the Women's Emergency Committee at the Terry Mansion. Hosted by Senator David Pryor, Dr. Gordy spoke on the events of the Lost Year. The overwhelming response led Gordy and Hubbard to develop the "Lost Year Project."

Biography of Dr. Gordy:

Dr. Sondra Gordy, Professor of History, University of Central Arkansas, teaches Arkansas History and works with undergraduate teacher educators.

The Lost Year has become her most important project. She has conducted over one hundred interviews with former black and white teachers and students of the period. Her dissertation, "Teachers of the Lost Year 1958-59: Little Rock School District," focused on the consequences of that disruptive period in teachers' professional and personal lives. Since 1996 she has located and interviewed more than sixty former students, finding examples of every ramification to the closure of a community's public school system. She has shared this and other research at various national, and state conferences and at workshops for teachers.

A former public school teacher of history, Gordy has been with UCA since 1986 when she began teaching the freshman World History survey class to hundreds of students. She did graduate work in history at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and earned her Doctorate of Education at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock in 1996 while teaching full-time at UCA.

Gordy has been professionally active in both Education and History, has published numerous articles and presented professionally in both areas. She has presented on the Lost Year at the National Oral History Association, The Organization of American Historians, many state historical conferences and numerous venues across the state. She has presented on teaching and integrating history into the curriculum at state, regional and national conferences.

A resident of Conway, Arkansas, Gordy is active in community service and is the past President of the UCA Faculty Senate and the UCA Chapter of the American Association of University Professors. She served two terms on the National AAUP Committee on Membership. She has been awarded the University Teaching Excellence Award at UCA and has twice been a finalist for the University Public Service Award. She is President of the Faulkner County Museum Board and a is a former member of the Board of the Arkansas Historical Association.

The Lost Year
In the documentary film The Lost Year, the recollections of students and teachers who lived through this tumultuous time are interspersed with narration explaining the history and politics of the year to bring this previously untold story to vivid life.
Sondra Gordy's Finding the Lost Year
Finding the Lost Year: What Happened When Little Rock Closed its Public Schools was published in 2009 and expands the topic of this website and the documentary film. Written by historian Dr Sondra Gordy, this oral history extensively details events from May 1958 through August 1959 through the perspective of displaced students and teachers.
Order the Book >>