By Anonymous (not verified) on September 23, 2012

Fifty-five years ago, nine African-American children wanted to get a good education in Little Rock, Ark. We should salute them today not just for integrating all-white Central High School but also for helping to tear down the old walls of racism.

These children, known as the “Little Rock Nine,” are worth mentioning by name as we celebrate the anniversary of their bravery: Minnijean Brown, Terrence Roberts, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Pattillo, Gloria Ray, Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls.

The story of the Little Rock Nine began with the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 ordering the desegregation of public education. Over the next three years, the city of Little Rock made plans to integrate their schools. Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus, however, had other ideas. When the school year began in the fall of 1957, he deployed the Arkansas National Guard to prevent any integration.

On Sept. 4, 1957, “The Little Rock Nine” arrived at Central High School only to find the Arkansas National Guard standing in their way. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund went to court and obtained an injunction preventing Faubus from stopping the nine students from entering school.

On Sept. 23, 1957, the students entered the school with police escorts, but due to an angry white mob out front and the threat of violence, the students were forced to go in through a side entrance. Because the situation was so unsafe, they were unable to remain in the school for the entire day.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sent a telegram to President Eisenhower seeking federal intervention in the civil rights fight. “This is a great opportunity for you to back up the longings and aspirations of millions of people of good will,” King wrote.

Woodrow Nilson Mann, mayor of Little Rock, also asked Eisenhower to protect the students with troops.

Eisenhower finally federalized the Arkansas National Guard and ordered members of the 101st Airborne to protect the students. For the remainder of the year, the troops escorted the students to each of their classes.

This was one of the major victories against America’s “Jim Crow” laws. In the years to follow, many other Americans, from all races and backgrounds, would fight racism in America and undo the doctrine of “separate but equal.”

Unfortunately, our schools today are increasingly being resegregated. According to a recent report by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, “43 percent of Latinos and 38 percent of blacks attend intensely segregated schools (those with only 0-10 percent of white students) across the nation.” It added: “Fully 15 percent of black students and 14 percent of Latino students attend ‘apartheid schools’ across the nation, where whites make up 0 to 1 percent of the enrollment.”

So even as we celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine, we must recommit ourselves to tackling the issue of segregation. The Little Rock Nine would demand no less of us.

Brian Gilmore is a poet and public interest lawyer. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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