Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Remembering the Little Rock Nine

'Education is the Civil Rights issue of our times...'

It's almost a cliche, yet it's more true than any of us want to believe. Yet, in the early days of the Civil Rights movement, the issue of discrimination in public education was a metaphor for the humiliation and degrading nature of segregation and discrimination for all Americans - no matter what color.

The Little Rock Nine, nine brave children whose willingness to test the turbulent waters stirred by the Supreme Courts 1954 Brown v. Board of Education desegregation ruling, embedded in the psyche of our country how humiliating and degrading that system was.

 "On September 4, 1957, Governor Orval Faubus defied the court, calling in the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine African American students--"The Little Rock Nine"--from entering the building. Ten days later in a meeting with President Eisenhower, Faubus agreed to use the National Guard to protect the African American teenagers, but on returning to Little Rock, he dismissed the troops, leaving the African American students exposed to an angry white mob. Within hours, the jeering, brick-throwing mob had beaten several reporters and smashed many of the school's windows and doors..."

"When Faubus did not restore order, President Eisenhower dispatched 101st Airborne Division paratroopers to Little Rock and put the Arkansas National Guard under federal command. By 3 a.m., soldiers surrounded the school, bayonets fixed."

"Under federal protection, the "Little Rock Nine" finished out the school year. The following year, Faubus closed all the high schools, forcing the African American students to take correspondence courses or go to out-of-state schools."

 Ernest Green (b. 1941), Elizabeth Eckford (b. 1941), Jefferson Thomas (1942–2010), Terrence Roberts (b. 1941),Carlotta Walls LaNier (b. 1942), Minnijean Brown (b. 1941), Gloria Ray Karlmark (b. 1942), Thelma Mothershed (b. 1940), and Melba Beals (b. 1941), should never be forgotten. They sacrificed their youth to give many Americans the first glimpses ourselves and our country's distance from its espoused democratic ideals. 

This interview by Melba Patillo Beals , author of the book 'Warriors Don't Cry', tells us of the significance of those days and their impact of her life and those of her friends. These men and women, most of whom are with us still, tell us why history is not just 'yesterday'...it is with us still and should be, as a reminder that every generation must work to make justice and equality a reality for us all. 


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