History lessons 

click to enlarge ON CAMERA: Minnijean Brown Trickey and daughter Spirit Trickey talk about racism.
  • ON CAMERA: Minnijean Brown Trickey and daughter Spirit Trickey talk about racism.

Some might find it ironic that Minnijean Brown Trickey and her daughter, Spirit Trickey, find themselves living in Little Rock. Minnijean Brown was one of nine black students who integrated Little Rock's Central High School in 1957 — the only one of the Little Rock Nine to be expelled from the school, after she called one of those who subjected her and the other Nine to daily torment “white trash.”

The part Minnijean Brown Trickey played in the events of that long-ago autumn have taken her around the world — with a thoughtful, philosophical take on the integration of Central High and the civil rights struggle making her much in demand as a public speaker.

Fifty years after her mother entered Central High School, under the protection of the U.S. Army, Spirit Trickey is a park ranger at the National Historic Site there — leading tours and telling people about the history her mother helped create.

In a new video, Minnijean Trickey and her daughter discuss how 1957 continues to shape their lives. In a series of candid joint interviews, the two women talk about their relationship, their differing views of the struggle for civil rights, and what awaits those who make history. The result is a new and wholly personal window into the Central High crisis and its repercussions.

Part 1 (8 min., 32 sec.): www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHbnLFX-jD4: Spirit and Minnijean talk about the value of education -- both in and out of the classroom. Included are Spirit's thoughts on being "mixed race," and her painful memories of other black students telling her she wasn't "black enough" when she was in high school. "When we came down (to Little Rock) in '97 for the 40th anniversary, I said, 'Here I am flunking out of my math class, and my mother was changing the world when she was 15...'" — Spirit Trickey

Part 2 (6 min., 22 sec.): www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGfjoDb8YOw: Spirit asks Minnijean how she feels about her daughter working at Central High School National Historic Site, and whether she would have been able to send her own children to Central High School had she been a parent in 1957. Later, Minnijean talks about her disillusionment over the unresponsiveness of the current government, and how it has made her think protest might not be of any use in modern America. "If you really want to know the truth, this sort of cultural, language, class segregation that's so much a part of our entire society -- to me -- is more frightening than going to Central in 1957." — Minnijean Brown Trickey

Part 3 (8 min., 10 sec.): www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQuDm42xWcA: Minnijean and Spirit discuss ways to resist racism, and how to manifest an anti-racist attitude when the divide between black and whites seems so wide. Spirit talks about befriending international students at school because she didn't fit into the black or white "box." Later, Minnijean and Spirit talk about the 300 year legacy of slavery, and whether there can ever be true reconciliation between blacks and whites. "What we learned is: don't talk about it. Be about it." — Spirit Trickey

Part 4 (8 min., 3 sec.): www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiUg_ri9Qzg: Spirit and Minnijean talk about the 50th anniversary of the Central High School Crisis, animosity between the races in America, and whether civil rights movement leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. would be disappointed in our progress. As an example of the willingness of blacks to forgive and accept whites, Spirit talks about her husband Tre -- who is white -- and how her grandmother accepted him "with open arms" even though she lived much of her life in the time of institutionalized racism. "To me, that's what I call progress. You'd think someone like Granny would be bitter or mad or angry, but she's not. I try to explain to kids that the reason why you guys, the Little Rock Nine, didn't go nuts or whatever is because you guys followed the principles of non-violence. And I don't think that you'd be able to (do) that if you didn't follow the principles of love...." — Spirit Trickey

Part 5 (5 min., 43 sec.):  www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBtyWDdpeTg: Minnijean and Spirit talk about modern revisionists and their view of slavery and Jim Crow-era racism, their own differing views about the forces at work in 1950s America, and the increasingly more-erroneous idea that the portrait of America is white, middle class and male.

Part 6 (4 min., 56 sec.): www.youtube.com/watch?v=qy614Tw989o: Conclusion. Spirit and Minnijean discuss the current political climate, and whether political division in America helps feed animosity between whites and blacks. Spirit talks about the irony of telling students visiting the Central High School National Historic Site that segregation ended in 1954, when the school groups she talks to are usually either overwhelmingly black or overwhelmingly white.



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