Profiles of the Nine 

THE NINE: Members of the Little Rock Nine.
  • THE NINE: Members of the Little Rock Nine.

In the past year, the Arkansas Times caught up with each of the Little Rock Nine for interviews — some on the fly as they were in town for special events, some on the phone and one during the taping of a video for the Times website. Each was asked to assess the kind of progress the nation has made toward an equal society, including any observations of current-day Little Rock they might want to make. To the latter, Elizabeth Eckford repeated the admonishment that appears on the plaque that accompanies her bronze statue on the grounds of the state Capitol: Little Rock must “honestly acknowledge its painful stand in the past to have reconciliation.” The Times' re-examination of the Crisis of Little Rock for this 50th anniversary issue will attempt to move the city toward that reconciliation.

Ernest Gideon Green

Managing director, Lehman Brothers, Washington, D.C.

Born: Sept. 22, 1941, in Little Rock.

Parents: Ernest and Lothaire Green.

Education: First black graduate of Central High School. B.A. social science, M.A. sociology, Michigan State University.

“Ernest Green, the oldest and a senior, was a member of my church. His warm eyes and quick smile greeted me each week at Sunday School. His aunt, Mrs. Gravely, had taught me history in junior high.”

— Melba Patillo Beals, “Warriors Don't Cry”

As the school year ended in 1958, Central High Principal Jess W. Matthews told graduating senior Ernest Green he'd mail him his diploma. But Green insisted on walking, one black in a sea of 600 white students. The only cheers that arose as he crossed the stage and took his diploma came from his family. Sitting with them was Martin Luther King Jr.

On that day, Green said, he knew he was breaking a barrier and that what he had done was important. He'd gone to Central to widen the educational opportunity for himself and other black teen-agers in Little Rock.

“But I don't think any of us thought it was something that was going to be recognized 50 years later,” he said in a recent telephone interview.

When Green was a teen-ager, civil right atrocities were being committed. He kept up with the tragedy of Emmett Till, a young black man who was beaten and drowned for speaking to a white woman in Mississippi and whose attackers went unpunished. Injustice was sharply defined and deeply felt. The challenge for black kids in 2007, Green said, is to find opportunities to make a difference — “that some kid can feel as inspired as I did that there are bottomless opportunities out there.”

Green's parents had a vision: “They had enough foresight to believe this [going to Central] was something important to participate in.”

Yet, what happened at Central was far worse than they anticipated. “Each of us up until the time the governor called out the National Guard thought there would be a minor blip on the screen and that the resistance would not be as vocal and as harsh.” But Orval Faubus wanted to “outseg Jim Johnson,” Green said. Had Faubus done the right thing in Little Rock, “school desegregation in the South would have gone a lot smoother.”

Today there's a feeling, Green said, that a focus on race is no longer needed — hence the backlash against the system of affirmative action, which was meant to give a leg up to those who've been crippled by a segregationist system. But, he said: “Race is the elephant in the corner. ... It permeates a large percentage of the things we do.” Racism is still throwing up barriers to economic success and access to better schools and housing.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Leslie Newell Peacock

  • Say, it's sweet potato pie contest time again!

    An ingredient that shaped Little Rock's culture for years was Robert "Say" McIntosh's famous sweet potato pies. The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center pays homage to Say and his pies with its annual "Say It Ain't Say's" sweet potato pie baking contest, now in its fifth year.
    • Oct 27, 2016
  • Leg room soon at The Root Cafe

    People who love dining at The Root Cafe but shy away because of the crowds will be happy to learn that the new dining area likely will be open by the end of next week. Corri Bristow Sundell, who owns and operates the Root Cafe with her husband, Jack Sundell, said the restaurant is waiting on the city plumbing inspector for the second bathroom the restaurant was required to install when it added three shipping container units.
    • Oct 26, 2016
  • Cheese dip champs, highest hog roasters: Here are the winners

    The city's sages in the secrets of great cheese dip and whole hog roasting showed off last weekend, at the 6th annual World Cheese Dip Championship, held last Saturday, Oct. 22, at the River Market pavilions, and the 4th annual Arkansas Times Whole Hog Roast on Sunday, Oct. 23.
    • Oct 26, 2016
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Issue 3: blank check

    Who could object to a constitutional amendment "concerning job creation, job expansion and economic development," which is the condensed title for Issue 3 for Arkansas voters on Nov. 8?
  • Little Rock police kill man downtown

    Little Rock police responding to a disturbance call near Eighth and Sherman Streets about 12:40 a.m. killed a man with a long gun, Police Chief Kenton Buckner said in an early morning meeting with reporters.
  • From the mind of Sol LeWitt: Crystal Bridges 'Loopy Doopy': A correction

    Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is installing Sol Lewitt's 70-foot eye-crosser "Wall Drawing 880: Loopy Doopy," waves of complementary orange and green, on the outside of the Twentieth Century Gallery bridge. You can glimpse painters working on it from Eleven, the museum's restaurant, museum spokeswoman Beth Bobbitt said
  • Ted Suhl loses another bid for new trial; faces stiff sentencing recommendation

    Ted Suhl, the former operator of residential and out-patient mental health services, has lost a second bid to get a new trial on his conviction for paying bribes to influence state Human Services Department policies. Set for sentencing Thursday, Suhl faces a government request for a sentence up to almost 20 years. He argues for no more than 33 months.
  • Football and foster kids

    It took a football stadium to lay bare Republican budget hypocrisy in Arkansas.

Latest in Top Stories

  • Good for the soul

    The return of Say McIntosh, restaurateur
    • Jun 1, 2010
  • Robocalls are illegal

    Robocalls -- recorded messages sent to thousands of phone numbers -- are a fact of life in political campaigns. The public doesn't like them much, judging by the gripes about them, but campaign managers and politicians still believe in their utility.
    • May 31, 2010
  • Riverfest winds down

    With Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm, Steve Miller Band, Robert Cray, Ludacris and more performing.
    • May 30, 2010
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation