Little Rock Nine

1950's

What made the 50's

Jerry Lee Lewis - Great Balls of Fire

Little Rock Nine

Two weeks ago I was one of them. Standing in front of Little Rock Central High School, chanting "Two, four, six, eight, we don't want to integrate." Now it's a completely different story, I can't leave my house without people whispering to each other, now no one thinks of my family the same. My name is Debra White. Our town of Little Rock, is usually quiet, but it hasn't been the same since President Eisenhower stated that our country needed more integrated schools. When Central High agreed to this, on May 24, 1955 the town got angry. They weren't supposed to go through with it till fall of 1957 though. I was one of the few who actually thought this was the right thing, I never really thought much different of the other kind. Yet, I was one of the very few who felt this way, I needed to keep it to myself. As the new school year started, the nine chosen students attempted to enter the high school, but they were turned away by the National Guard. One of the worst parts of that day for me was walking down Park Street. That is were I was apart of the mob who followed Elizabeth, harassing her. Since the students weren't allowed in the school, I heard stories of them staying at home, studying and doing their school work together in a group for weeks. Finally on the 23rd of September they stepped foot in the school. The group of protesters that day was beyond what I expected there to be. Everywhere I looked, there were people yelling and pushing. A few men mistook African-American reporters as some of the parents of the nine. I remember seeing the pain on their faces, as they were getting beaten by these men. Because of this, the students were taken out of school for their own safety. After that incident, the students were allowed back in the school, only two days later. As I walked to the school that morning, I was frightened by the numbers of American Airborne. More than 1,200 of them stood in the streets that day.

The click clack, click clack, of their boots could be heard over the cries out of the crowds. The guards surrounded the kids, I could only make out the face of one of the girls, Gloria, I think her name was. My daughter, Robin, goes to Central, and she was standing in front of the doors right then and there. She said people were nasty from the second they walked into that school. They were just waving, trying to be friendly to the students already there, and they spit at the nine. That was their welcoming to the school. Every night Robin told me stories of what happened at school. In the lunch room one day, a couple of guys came up to Minniejean and started making comments to her, then they poured soup into her face. They didn't stop there, they had another guy come up, and do the same exact thing to her, yet this time, she dumped the soup in his face. She was one of the only one who stood up for herself. As a result of this, the school just had enough of her sticking up, so they expelled her. Robin came home with a card that said "One down, eight to go." I tore that card up and threw it in the trash. I didn't want disrespectful things like that in my house. My husband and I have tried teaching her that these kinds of things aren't right, and that she needs to stick up for her piers. And the next day she used our words and helped Jefferson Thomas. He sat by her Algebra, and that day he didn't have his textbook. As our daughter, she scooted her desk over to his, and shared her book. Now you can imagine what people that of that, right away people started to whisper, and get the word out. That day is what changed my family's life forever. Every single student knew what Robin did by the end of the day, and later that night, so did their parents. That's why we're the outsiders. No one respects us the same, just because we did one act of kindness. What these kids put up with is indescribable.

#20: The Little Rock Nine Forgive Their Tormentors - TV Guide's Top 25 - Oprah Winfrey Network