The student news site of Little Rock Central High School

The Tiger Online

The student news site of Little Rock Central High School

The Tiger Online

The student news site of Little Rock Central High School

The Tiger Online

Central Park Ranger Shares Passion For Civil Rights


In 2017, a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, made national headlines and sparked Rebecca Hoffman’s interest in the history of civil rights in the United States. Then she decided to become a ranger with the National Park Service and has worked at the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site for three and a half years. 

“I grew up in a very Southern household and that entails being exposed to Confederate iconography on a regular basis,” Hoffman said. “I didn’t really see a problem with any of those things until I was forced to come to terms with what happened near my own hometown.”

Hoffman has an undergraduate degree in history, but the events in Charlottesville inspired her to more specifically focus on bridging the gap between the events of the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement and how they affect contemporary society. She became a ranger through the Pathways Program, an initiative that recruits college students to permanent positions within the National Park Service because she wanted to bring her skills to a site focused on the Civil Rights Movement. 

“This experience has been everything I wanted it to be but also unexpected in every single way because, as someone who majored in history and loves studying it, I never thought I’d work in a place where the people who made history are still around,” she said.

Since many people involved in Little Rock’s integration crisis are still active members of the community, Hoffman has been able to more personally connect with the school’s history through her work at the museum.

“Dr. Sybil Jordan Hampton was the first black woman to attend all three years of high school at Central. Today [Sept. 1] is actually her birthday, so this morning I went to see her and drop off flowers,” Hoffman said.

However, according to Hoffman, not all visitors are as eager to study the history of the Little Rock Nine and their contribution to the Civil Rights Movement.

“There are people who come to this place and don’t like the fact that the National Park Service is here. Some have stood in this space and accused me, my colleagues, and the Little Rock Nine of being liars,” Hoffman said. “But the way we present our story is the raw unflinching truth and we’re not going to sugarcoat or sanitize it. Sometimes, people think [our story] is a political message, but telling the truth isn’t and shouldn’t be political.”

More recently, the museum has been able to reach a broader audience as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“While I was working here in 2020, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests and George Floyd’s murder, a lot of people were grappling with these topics for the first time ever because they had been living in a bubble,” Hoffman said. “And even if they had been aware of tragic situations surrounding people like Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, or other names on television, it was never on the same scale as summer in 2020.”

Hoffman believes that 2020 marked a significant turning point in many people’s understanding of the role race has played throughout American history. 

“Even though the pandemic was going on, people were trying to get out of their homes in an effort to contextualize what they were seeing and explain it to their kids. People were coming here, who would say things like, ‘We’re from Minneapolis, and we didn’t know how to explain this to our kids, so we just got in the car and started driving.’” Hoffman said. “This museum allowed many Americans to contextualize and share these stories with their kids,” said Hoffman. 

Tours at Central last much longer than traditional presentations; most national park tours are 30 minutes long while those provided by Hoffman and the other park rangers at the school’s National Historic Site last 90 minutes. 

“There is no way to tell the story of the Little Rock Nine properly and effectively without giving a lot of other context, especially given the recent attacks on Black history,” said Hoffman. “Even before 2020, many people received an incomprehensive Black history education. We learned the slaves were freed, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, Dr. King had a dream, and that’s it.”

Hoffman encourages those on her tours to consider how they can best utilize the knowledge provided through personal changes, advocacy, or simply sharing the story of the Little Rock Nine. 

You’ve come here and that’s the first step, but now what are you going to do when you leave? Are you going to take these lessons with you? We owe it to the Little Rock Nine. There’s only eight of them living, and, unfortunately, they’re not going to be with us forever,” Hoffman said. “We have to stop looking to them to serve as our leaders because otherwise, who’s going to fill that gap, and how else will we overcome everything that is happening right now?”

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About the Contributors
Sybil Curran
Sybil Curran, News Editor
This is my second year on staff and I am passionate about sharing and learning about the community and giving everyone a voice. Outside of Tiger News, I play tennis and enjoy hanging out with my friends.
Steele Matthews
Steele Matthews, Social Media Editor
I am a senior and this is my second year on staff. I'll be helping to manage the Tiger News social media and hope to engage more students with the publication. Outside of school I take dance classes, beekeep, work at Camp Aldersgate, and enjoy being outdoors. I'm looking forward to a great year on staff!

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