One of the “Little Rock Nine” visits campus for MLK Jr. Celebration
January 19, 2012
Maryville University held a Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration called Lessons from Little Rock on Jan. 19, featuring a talk by Ernest Green about his experience as one of the “Little Rock Nine.”
Green and eight other black students were the first to integrate Little Rock Central High School, following the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education that declared segregation in public schools illegal. They later would become known as the “Little Rock Nine.” Green was the first African-American to earn his high school diploma from Central High School, then went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in social science and his master’s degree in sociology from Michigan State University. He is the Managing Director of Public Finance for Lehman Brothers’ Washington, D.C., office.
Green recalled a childhood where he was blocked from drinking at a “whites only” water fountain. He spoke of how hard it was to be one of the first black students to integrate a public school. “Was I scared? We all were, but how could you say no when we knew all over the South people were fighting for justice,” he said.
He called on audience members to recognize moments in their own lives when they would be called on to do what’s right and asked them to prepare to rise to the occasion. “I believe you’ll all have a Central High School moment,” he told the audience in a crowded Maryville University Auditorium. They gave him a standing ovation following his remarks.