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April 11, 2023

Little Rock Nine: Transforming American History Into Swedish Culture

People holding signs in support of integrated schools at a civil rights march in 1963

The Little Rock Nine were the group of nine African-American students who attended a racially segregated school in Arkansas in 1957. Their enrollment helped spark the Civil Rights Movement and contributed to the desegregation of the school system throughout the United States. Despite the physical distance, this historical American event engages and inspires the Swedish cultural scene to this day. Author and journalist Elisabeth Åsbrink, one of Sweden’s most prominent non-fiction writers, is currently writing a book about the Little Rock Nine in close collaboration with one of its nine members, Gloria Ray Karlmark, who has lived in Sweden since the 1960s. Meanwhile, Västmanlands Teater, a Swedish performing arts theatre, will soon show a stage performance by playwright Irena Kraus and scenographer Annika Bromberg about the nine students titled A Moment in Time, directed by Rebecca Örtman.

This conversation will explore transforming historical material into literature and performing art, as well as children's right to culture and education in Sweden and the United States today. How do writers and theaters in Sweden engage with documents from the American Civil Rights Movements? What are they inspired by, and how do they tell this story to a Swedish audience?

The event is organized by the Embassy of Sweden with the outreach partners the Collaborative on Global Children's Issues and the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University.


Welcoming Remarks and Introduction

Helene Larsson Pousette, Cultural Counselor, Embassy of Sweden
Dr. Sandra Shannon, Professor Emerita of African American Literature, Department of English, Howard University

Moderated Conversation

Rebecca Örtman, Director of A Moment in Time
Elisabeth Åsbrink, Author
Dr. Beth Ferholt, Associate Professor, Department of Early Childhood and Art Education, Brooklyn College, City University of New York
Masa Avramovic, Researcher in Children’s Participation, Södertörn University, Stockholm
Dr. Sandra Shannon (moderator)

Musical Performance and Reading of A Moment in Time

Annika Bromberg, Costume and Set Designer
Miriam Aïda, Musician
Ann Petrén, Actor