LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Members of the Little Rock Nine held a public speaking event Friday morning to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Little Rock Central High School integration.
Dr. Terrence Roberts, MinniJean Brown, Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford and Gloria Karlmark were all present at the event. Sitting alongside each other, five of the eight surviving members detailed the life and legacy of their impact on the education system.
The Little Rock Nine gained national attention in 1957 when nine Black teenagers were prevented from entering the Central High, where only whites attended. As the students attempted to attend the school, they were met with angry mobs and guardsmen day after day.
It wasn’t until September, 25,1957, that the members of Little Rock Nine were able to attend their first full day of classes at the historic high school, changing the dynamic in schools. Ernest Green became the first black graduate of Central High School in May 1958, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
The historic former high school students spoke at the Petit Jean Room at the Little Rock Marriott. When asked how racial issues have changed in the last 65 years, Roberts and Brown noted that little to no progress has been made.
“We’re where we are because we chose to be silent,” Eckford said.
Karlmark encouraged the younger generation to take advantage of moving forward to making the community a better place.
Friday’s event is one of many scheduled to honor the movement that marked the beginning of integration in schools. Little Rock Nine members will join Little Rock city officials Sunday to rename Park Street in front of the high school as “Little Rock Nine Way.” The ceremony will begin at 3 p.m.
After the renaming, former President Bill Clinton, Governor Asa Hutchinson and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. will hold a program at the Clinton Presidential Center at 5 p.m. This event is invite-only.
A live stream of Friday morning’s news conference is available in the video player above.