Booker T. Washington, an American educator, author, and advisor to President Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, once said, “Success always leaves footprints.”
This quote brings meaning to those who fought for African American rights and shows that no matter what comes out of the findings, there will always be evidence.
February 1926, marks the day Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, created “Negro History Week”. This event takes place in the second week of February each year to honor the birthdays of civil rights leaders’, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Seeing the success of Negro History Week, Dr. Woodson wanted to increase the impact of the celebration, and thus Black History Month was later created.
One of the most notable events that is still remembered to this day, is the story of the “Little Rock Nine.” In 1957, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, and all U.S. public schools were instructed to integrate. This was a decision made after Brown vs. the Board of Education trial in Topeka, Kansas.
On Sept. 4, 1957, nine African American students tried to attend their first day of class at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, they were turned away and were prevented from entering. The students, by the names of Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas, and Carlotta Walls, will forever be known as the “Little Rock Nine.” On Sept. 25, 1957, the nine students were finally able to enter the Central High School under protection from federal troops. The event was viewed around the world.
The Little Rock Nine are very important in setting an early victory towards the civil rights movement. Fast-forward over the last fifty years, and you will see that many of those nine students are still making contributions to education, and are committed to ensuring that future generations have access to a quality education.
a. Carlotta Walls (LaNier) is the president of the Little Rock Nine Foundation, an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Northern Colorado and an inductee in the Colorado Woman’s Hall of Fame, the Girl Scouts Women of Distinction, and the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
b. Elizabeth Eckford received her BA in History from Central State University, she continues to share her stories with school groups, and challenges students to be active participants in confronting justice, rather than being passive observers.
c. Ernest Green serves on the Board of Directors of Fisk University, Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) Network, Clark Atlanta board of Trustees and the African American Experience Fund Board of Trustees. Many books, movies and documentaries have chronicled Mr. Green, to include the “Ernest Green Story”, produced and distributed by the Walt Disney Corporation.
d. Thomas Jefferson received a BA in Business Administration from Los Angeles State College. He became a member on the Board of Directors for the City of Refuge Learning Academy in Columbus, Ohio, and received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Ohio Dominican University in recognition of his life-long efforts in human rights and equality.
Time has shown us that many obstacles can be overcome, if we believe in change. Change has shaped the lives of many people throughout American history. The nine African American students were part of change that made a significant contribution to our nation. Let us honor this year’s theme, “The Crisis in Black Education” by continuing to contribute to Black History not just during the month it is observed but in our daily lives.
For more information on Black History Month, visit the Equal Opportunity SharePoint site at https://dm.eim.acc.hedc.af.mil/355FW/EO/Lists/Announcements/AllItems.aspx or contact the Equal Opportunity office at 520-228-5509.