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The Little Rock Nine—yesterday and today

Herb Boyd | 9/20/2013, 11:35 a.m.
When classes began at Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., on Sept. 4, 1957, the nine Black students who ...
Little Rock 9

Carlotta Walls LaNier (born Dec. 18, 1942) graduated from Central High in 1960 and then attended Michigan State University for two years. Because she was known as one of the Little Rock Nine, her father was unable to find decent employment, and the family moved to Denver. She later earned her degree from Colorado State College and worked at the YWCA as a program administrator for teenagers. Always an independent–minded thinker, LaNier launched her own real estate brokerage company in 1977.

Melba Pattillo Beals (born Dec. 7, 1941) wrote a book about her experiences. When Beals’ “Warriors Don’t Cry” was released in 1994, it was an eloquent documentation of the trials and tribulations the nine endured. Being a pioneer was nothing new to her family, because Beals’ mother was one of the first African-Americans to graduate from the University of Arkansas in 1954.

The closing of high schools in the city affected Beals’ classes, so she moved with her family to California to complete her high school education and then continued on to San Francisco State for her degree in journalism.

“White is a State of Mind” is the sequel to her first book and follows her life after high school. She lives in the San Francisco area, where she continues to write and make public speaking appearances.

Terrence Roberts (Dec. 3, 1941) was 15 years old when he became a member of the nine. Like several others, he completed his high school requirements in California and later graduated from California State University. At UCLA, he earned his master’s degree in social work. He obtained his doctorate in psychology from Southern Illinois University. Widely sought as a public speaker, Roberts is also co-chairperson of the master’s program at Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Born on Sept. 26, 1942, Gloria Ray Karlmark came from a very successful family, and this influenced her desire to achieve the best education. But like the others who were stifled from finishing at Central High due to the closing of the schools in the city, she moved to Missouri and attended the newly integrated Kansas City Central High School. She later graduated from Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago with a degree in chemistry and mathematics. Karlmark spent time in Europe, and while she was overseas, she established herself as an expert in computer science and robotics, particularly during her tenure at the International Business Machine’s Nordic Laboratory in Sweden. She opted for an early retirement while working in the Netherlands for Philips Lighting.

In 1958, all nine students were recipients of the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP for their unwavering pursuit of civil rights, and in 1999, they were honored with Congressional Gold Medals.

It should be noted that Daisy Bates, the fearless freedom fighter from Arkansas, was a constant presence throughout the students’ ordeal, often by their side to chaperone them to classes and later chauffeur them home.

Activities

  • Find out more: The Little Rock Nine accomplished quite a bit during the challenging circumstances at Central High School. There have been a number of film productions made and books written about their lives. Beals’ “Warriors Don’t Cry” does a good job of capturing what they had to endure, and it is recommended as a very good addition to this article.
  • Discussion: A good way to get into the experience they had is to engage students in role play. Select nine students to be the Little Rock Nine with the teacher as Bates. Bates’s memoir “The Long Shadow of Little Rock” will provide the classroom with solid background material.
  • Place in context: It will be a great benefit to know what other events came before, during and after the school was integrated. Students may want to research why the governor closed the schools in Little Rock and how it affected all the students in the city.

This Week in Black History

  • Sept. 18, 1963: In St. Augustine, Fla., four NAACP members are dragged from their car and viciously beaten with chains, wrenches and ax handles. Four KKK members will later be acquitted by an all-white jury.
  • Sept. 19, 1915: Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black history, founds the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
  • Sept. 19, 1966: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and folk singer Joan Baez lead a march in Grenada, Miss., protesting the beatings of African-American school children after schools were desegregated.