When nine black teenagers integrated Central High School in Little Rock, many segregationists insisted they were paid protesters who had been imported from other states. pic.twitter.com/l6yDPNzChS
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) February 21, 2018
When Sen. Alan Clark (R-Lonsdale) joined in the fake Facebook meme about
Sixty-one years before teens at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., would survive a mass shooting only to be labeled “crisis actors,” the nine African American teens who braved racist crowds to enroll in Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas were also accused of being impostors.
False rumors that the Little Rock Nine were paid protesters even forced the NAACP to issue a statement condemning the stories as “pure propaganda.” The students were not, in fact, “imported” from the North, said the NAACP’s Clarence A. Laws, but rather the children of local residents, including veterans.
Kevin Kruse, a Princeton history professor, first pointed out the parallel between Florida and efforts to detract from the courage of the Little Rock Nine. His Tweet went viral.
But the practice of dismissing witnesses to major historical events as
“It’s a theme that crops up throughout civil rights history,” said Kruse. “Back then, it was an assumption that African Americans in the South couldn’t possibly be upset. They must have been stirred up from the outside, either paid to do this or inspired to do this by propaganda. They couldn’t have come up with this on their own.
The slur was used when former slaves testified before Congress after the Civil War. It was used when blacks testified against the Ku Klux Klan. The attempt at misdirection was used repeatedly during the civil rights years of the 1960s, including a cry of hoax about the disappearance of three civil rights workers eventually found slain.
Dismissal of the civil rights people is analogous to the cries of fakery about Parkland, Fla.
“It’s the same idea,” [historian Heather] Richardson said. “That anybody who doesn’t agree with establishment politics must have no agency, be corrupt or not understand what they are doing.”
Alan Clark and other NRA defenders won’t accept that many people, even in Arkansas, see things differently. They prefer to believe they have no agency. November might disprove that to some of them.