Recently I attended the Facing History seminar "Choices in Little Rock" which uses a case study of the 1957 desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas to explore topics such as federal and states rights, the American Constitution system, and the Brown v. Board decision and its legacies. The seminar also examines issues of race, human behavior, and the power of individual choice. At the end of the week our group had the opportunity to hear from one of the Little Rock Nine, Dr. Terrence Roberts. When he spoke to us about his experiences and his journey since that fateful school year, I couldn't help but be inspired. As a history teacher, yearly classroom screenings of Eyes on the Prize had me well acquainted with the grainy black and white images of the violent mobs outside Little Rock Central High School. Also clear in my memory is the image of nine dignified high school students and their refusal to let hate and bigotry obstruct access to the education that was rightfully theirs. The footage still moves me of course, but perhaps because I've seen it repeatedly, that moment and the people in it, seem frozen in time. But hearing from Dr. Roberts gave me a much needed shift in perspective. Yes, things have changed. It is also just as true that certain problems still remain. And the question I must ask myself about both is what to do about it.
"The world is changed one student at a time." This was the message from Allida Black to students from four different schools spanning Los Angeles.
Central High School (Little Rock, AK). It is a huge building. There’s no way around it - it is just enormous. It was built to be imposing and as it nears 90 years old it still meets that objective.
Topics: Civil Rights Movement
Every January ushers in a new year and another Martin Luther King Day Celebration at my school. As the day of our school-wide assembly nears, inevitably I hear some kid let out an exasperated sigh and a comment along the lines of, "MLK, again? We've been doing the whole 'I Have a Dream' thing since elementary school!" And then I realize what can go amiss with MLK Celebrations if we're not careful. If we put the responsibility for the Civil Rights Movement on the shoulders of one man, we negate the fact that all those nameless, faceless people in the crowd on the Washington Mall were themselves agents of change and upstanders for justice. While the intention of showcasing and honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is to inspire and motivate our students, I've heard some kids express a sense of futility that they will never have the kind of impact or reach of MLK or that the problem of justice is so big and seemingly insurmountable, they feel defeated just thinking about it.