Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

September 25, 2007


Today in Little Rock, Arkansas, former President Bill Clinton led the 50th anniversary celebration of the "Little Rock Nine". In his speech, he described how nine black children, aged 14 to 16, were escorted into Central High School on September 25, 1957 by soldiers of the US Army's 101st Airbourne Division. The famous 1954 Brown v Board of Education decision of the US Supreme Court had legally ended school segregation. But segregation had, as a matter of fact, continued in Arkansas under Governor Orville Faubus. He had posted Arkansas National Guard troops to prevent black students from entering the school. For three weeks the black students were refused entry. Then, President Dwight Eisenhower ordered US Army troops to see to the entry of the nine children into the school without disorder or violence. A hate-filled crowd badgered the children, some spit on them. Their time in Central High was not pleasant. Their text books and other school equipment were stolen or damaged. They were insulted and ridiculed by white students. Two finished their senior years elsewhere.

The Lehrer Report tonight on PBS presented an interview with the nine, now in their mid-sixties, each composed and self-confident. Each had volunteered to be brought into the school by the army. Their stories of what they had endured were emotionally gripping. All declared, however, how pleased they were to have been involved in this landmark battle, ultimately for the good of the nation. One of the women described how, when she went in with the soldiers, she "felt the steel stiffen in her spine".

Biographies of the nine show how each followed up high school on college and university levels. Each has continued to be a speaker and advocate for civil rights, while carrying on their occupations as realtor, professor of psychology, financial consultant with a major investment firm, guidance counselor, and other productive occupations. One, Gloria Ray Karlmark, graduated from Illinois Institute of Technology, worked as a mathematician in this country before emmigrating to Sweden where she worked in IBM's legal department. Subsequently she worked for Phillips International throughout Europe where she currently resides. She was a co-founder and then editor-in-chief for fifteen years of the professional journal, "Computers in Industry".

Tomorrow's newspapers and television screens will be brightened up by this story of the 50th Anniversary of the "Little Rock Nine".