Eight members of the Little Rock Nine, lacking the late Jefferson Thomas, gathered for a panel discussion at the Clinton School for Public Service this morning to open a weekend of activities marking the 60th anniversary of their desegregation of Central High School.

They are, from left, Thelma Mothershed Wair, Minnijean Brown Trickey, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford and Melba Pattillo Beals.

The session will be archived at the Clinton school for viewing.

Ernest Green
commented, quoting Martin Luther King Jr., as saying the Little Rock Nine’s actions benefitted white people, too. It’s given the community an answer to the segregationists’ resistance.

The discussion was eloquent, notably when Terrence Roberts said he wished there weren’t a reason to have such an event. But there was. He said he needed no education as a young person in Arkansas to know segregation was wrong. “It was illegal, immoral and unconscionable and yet there it was.” He added ” …. in the continuing red state of Arkansas.”
Elizabeth Eckford, who lives in Little Rock, said she lives in the “ghetto” and can go places younger relatives cannot go, perhaps she joked because she holds her canes as if she’s prepared to hit someone. She remarked that photographs can sometimes be misleading. A reference maybe to the famous photograph of her harassment on the first day of school? Get accounts from several witnesses about historical events, she counseled. People don’t intentionally lie, she said, but what they say is sometimes influenced by “whatever mythology they grew up with.”


Asked about challenges, Eckford talked of education and financing of schools. “Are the poor entitled to the same kind of education as the elite have and, if so, how do you finance it?”

Education is not the only index, Ernest Green said. You have to pay attention to employment and housing, among others. When he grew up, “Arkansas was a place you left,” Green said. Now is an opportunity to retain talent. “Let’s look beyond schools and look at some of these other institutions that are important for change.”

Minnijean Trickey
said the country suffers from what she calls “profound intentional ignorance,” in topics such as climate change, war and violence. “We have to stop being so goddam ignorant,” she said.


Several thanked local supporters across the cultural spectrum.