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March/April 2003


Elizabeth Eckford and Kendall Reinhardt Elizabeth Eckford and Kendall Reinhardt sharing their story with teachers in the conference center at The Gallup Organization in Lincoln. Gallup generously provided space for the event and hosted a continental breakfast and lunch for the teachers.

In September 1957, fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Eckford got off a bus for her first day of high school. It was not a typical first day of school. As she walked toward Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, she was followed by an angry mob and in front of her were armed National Guardsmen, lined up to prevent her from entering.

Elizabeth Eckford was one of nine black students who attempted to desegregate the Little Rock school system, who would come to be known as the Little Rock Nine. These were nine students, nine kids, who changed the face of America.

In 1996 high school student Heather Jurgensen, from Uniontown, Kansas, decided to use the Little Rock Nine as the focus of her project for the National History Day competition. Her research led her to Elizabeth Eckford, who had not talked of her experience for nearly four decades. Ms. Eckford chose to break her silence and share her story with this young student.

An obvious question arose: How as a teenager did Eckford find the courage to stand up to angry crowds, armed military personnel, and, ultimately, the governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus?

Ms. Eckford told the young Ms. Jurgensen that she had depended on one white student, Kendall Reinhardt, who had befriended her, for a large measure of the courage to face anger and hatred in pursuit of her education. The curious Ms. Jurgensen located Reinhardt, and ultimately reunited the two former high school students, who together had made history.

On January 31, 2003, Elizabeth Eckford and Kendall Reinhardt came to Lincoln, Nebraska, to speak before electrified audiences and tell their amazing story. They came here to participate in kick-off events for a nearly $1 million grant project to improve the teaching of American history. This grant is the result of collaboration between the Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln Public Schools, and Nebraska Wesleyan University, a collaboration that began with the creation of the Nebraska Institute, a summer workshop for teachers that helps them bring the stories of Nebraska into their classrooms.

The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation helped to fund the Nebraska Institute, and has supported it for the five years of its existence. But that's only one way the Foundation is making a real difference in Nebraska history education.

Believing in the importance of National History Day, the Foundation helps provide financial support that allows the Society to help reward student winners of the state competition to assist them in competing on the national level. The Foundation also supports the partnership between the Nebraska State Historical Society, Nebraska Educational Telecommunications, and the Nebraska Department of Education to provide the NebraskaStudies website, which helps bring the resources of the Nebraska State Historical Society into the classroom. (Visit this site at nebraskastudies.org).

There is important work yet to be done. We would like to increase the financial support that we can provide for teachers across the state to attend the Nebraska Institute. We would like to be able to help students working on History Day projects with resources for their projects, and with their expenses to compete.

With continued strain on the budgets of educational institutions, it is exciting to be able to help expand what our students know about the state in which they live and to understand how it fits into the larger American saga. With the Nebraska Institute we expand the knowledge our teachers have and help them integrate Nebraska stories into all areas of the social studies and humanities. With nebraskastudies.org, we override the limitations of textbooks by providing an ever-growing pool of historical resources. With our continued support of History Day, we strongly encourage students to learn how to ask questions about the past that lead them to a profound understanding of it.

If you share our interest in this important work, you can help. Financial gifts, large or small, make a big difference. We invite you to help us continue to bring history alive in Nebraska classrooms and make these changes for the better.

The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation Unveils Plans for the First "History Mystery"

On May 9 the Nebraska State Historical Foundation will challenge twenty-five teams to solve a "History Mystery" in Lincoln. These teams, consisting of four or five persons, will use clues to uncover interesting, famous, and even notorious places in downtown Lincoln.

The detective teams will be launched from the Museum of Nebraska History, and will have two short hours to discover as many of the clues as possible. They must then return to the museum and ferret out one last clue to an object somewhere on exhibit. The team that finds the most clues wins.

Teams will have to be shrewd tacticians, deductive detectives, and perhaps just a little unscrupulous. The winners will enjoy unlimited bragging rights, and everyone who plays is promised a good time.

Registration fees and other revenues will support a Nebraska State Historical Society exhibit, so along with having fun, players will be helping the Society.

If you think you are up to the challenge, and want to know more, contact Jackie Spahn, executive director, Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation, at 402-435-3535.

to the Students of Nebraska

Thomas and Dorothy Weyer Creigh of Hastings shared a love of history. Their hope was that they could encourage young Nebraskans to develop a lifelong interest in history. They accomplished their legacy in a big way, and the impact of their gifts will affect school children and adults for years to come.

Dorothy was an author of several books on Nebraska history. She was interested in furthering educational programs on Nebraska for students of all ages, and particularly for those in grade schools and junior high schools.

Tom was a valued member of the board of directors of the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation. He hoped to share Nebraska's stories with students of all ages through a variety of mediums. He wanted to generate excitement about Nebraska history in classrooms across the state.

In 1998 Dorothy and Tom's interests merged when Tom established the Dorothy Weyer Creigh and Thomas Creigh, Jr. Endowment Fund at the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation. The fund provides support for the Nebraska Institute, an ambitious, education-training program developed by the Nebraska State Historical Society to change the way Nebraska history is taught in our classrooms.

The Nebraska Institute is designed to provide educators with the opportunity to explore and use primary historical resources (not textbooks), critical evaluation methods, and new technologies to develop classroom materials and inservice training sessions that will infuse Nebraska materials into an existing curriculum in the most innovative and effective ways.

The Creighs' generosity, combined with additional private funding, made it possible to start the Nebraska Institute. With Tom's help, we were able to create long-lasting partnerships with other organizations and donors that provided the backdrop for the Historical Society, Lincoln Public Schools, and Nebraska Wesleyan University to receive the nearly $1 million grant described on the previous page. Without the Creighs' seed money for the Nebraska Institute in its formative years, we would not have been able to provide the attractive program we did and attract the significant funding from the U.S. Department of Education that will propel the program well into the future.

Tom and Dorothy's goals to encourage a love of history in our students can be felt in today's classrooms throughout the state.

from NSHS Stores and Catalogs

In early spring Nebraska weather can be cool and rainy. This might be a good time to curl up indoors with a good book, and many good books are available through the NSHS museum stores. Some examples are:

The museum stores also carry many books on conservation, cooking, quilts, genealogy, and Nebraska historic sites.

Don't forget to take advantage of your 10 percent members-only discount at all museum stores and on catalog purchases. If you can't visit a store in person, you can explore the catalog online and download an order form to mail with your payment. Just go to www.nebraskahistory.org, click the "Research and Resources" button, and then choose "Shopping" from the alphabetical list. If you don't have Internet access, call Karen Heath, membership coordinator, toll-free at 888-515-3535 or 402-435-3535 and request a museum store catalog by mail.

Foundation Board of Directors

James W. Hewitt, Lincoln, President
Allison D. Petersen, Walton, Executive Vice President
Joanne F. Shephard, Valentine, Secretary
Robert D. Northrop, Lincoln, Treasurer
Jack D. Campbell, Lincoln
Thomas Creigh, Jr., Hastings
Martha A. Greer, Lincoln
Steven E. Guenzel, Lincoln
Diane N. "Diny" Landen, Omaha
Dr. Frederick C. Luebke, Lincoln
Lu Marcotte, Nebraska City
Dr. Martin A. Massengale, Lincoln
John D. Massey, Scottsbluff
George H. Moyer, Jr., Madison
James F. Nissen, Lincoln
Cynthia Olson, Lisco
Amy Scott-Willer, Omaha
John W. Webster, Omaha
S. N. "Bud" Wolbach, Grand Island
Dr. John Wunder, Lincoln

Dorothy G. Hevelone, Beatrice, Director Emeritus

Lawrence J. Sommer, Lincoln, NSHS Director, Ex-officio
Keith Blackledge, North Platte, NSHS President, Ex-officio
Jim McKee, Lincoln, NSHS Treasurer, Ex-officio

Contact Information:

Jackie Spahn, Executive Director
Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation
215 Centennial Mall South, #408
Lincoln, NE 68508-1813

Ph: 402-435-3535
Fax: 402-435-3986

January/February 2003 Issue

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Last updated 19 February 2003

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