Three members of the Little Rock Nine spoke on campus Thursday and recalled their experience entering the halls of Central High School while being escorted by the 101st Army Division.
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that “separate was inherently unequal,” which led to the integration of public schools. The Little Rock Nine were the first nine students to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, following the Supreme Court’s decision. Three members — Ernest Green, Terrence Roberts and Carlotta Walls LaNier — spoke Thursday at the LBJ Presidential Library.
“I remembered Brown v. Board of Education,” LaNier said. “A week after [this decision], it was discussed at my home.”
The three all agreed that gaining an education is what motivated them to endure the retaliation from white students.
“Without the presence of the army, we’ve might have been killed,” Roberts said. “I didn’t think the opposition would be as it was.”
LaNier said she experienced the harassment each day when she went to school.
“I needed to carry my books with me all day,” LaNier said. “I had a different guard every Monday morning.”
LaNier also stressed the importance of getting an education.
“It was about an access to an opportunity,” LaNier said. “I wanted a piece of that American Dream.”
Amaree Austin, the grand-niece of Little Rock Nine member Thelma Mothershed-Wair, said she still notices kids at her school who tend to separate themselves according to race and ethnicity.
“You can’t move forward unless you know where you’ve been,” Austin said. “It’s not done. Integration within the world is not done.”
It is important to be educated about the lives that African-Americans are living, according to Roberts.
“[We need to] recognize it so that more can understand it,” Roberts said.
The Little Rock Nine started the Little Rock Nine Foundation, in which each of the nine gives a scholarship to a disadvantaged student and becomes a mentor to the recipient.
“It seemed to be appropriate for us, who were so very keen on education, that we should make certain that other kids who wanted to pursue higher education who didn’t have the funds could do so,” Roberts said.