“Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” --Elie Wiesel
You are a student at an all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. The government has ordered the superintendent to desegregate the schools. On the first day of classes, nine Black students are supposed to attend your school.
However, the National Guard and an angry mob of White people are preventing the Black students from entering the school. You see one Black girl alone, being harassed by a group of angry men. What can you do to help her?
After the dilemma:
What really happened
In 1954, the US Supreme Court ended the racial segregation of public schools. Many school districts resisted, and desegregation was a slow process.
On September 4th, 1957, eight Black students, accompanied by a White pastor named Dunbar Ogden, attempted to enter Little Rock's Central High School. One Black student, Elizabeth Eckford, wasn't able to meet up with the others, and she walked to school alone. Along the way she was harassed by a mob of racist White people.
The National Guard troops wouldn't allow any of the Black students to enter the school, and sent them back into the streets with the angry mobs of protestors.
Elizabeth Eckford made her way to a bus stop, and waited for a bus while the mob surrounded her. One White woman sat on the bench with Eckford as an act of support.
Elizabeth Eckford and the rest of the Little Rock Nine exhibited an ultimate courage that is rarely witnessed in history. Nine teenagers faced down a mob of enraged White men and women who hungered for violence. Although the police and the guards did not allow the students into the school, they did at least help to keep the mobs away from the school grounds.
During this time, as throughout much of US history, there were a few White allies who supported civil rights. Dunbar Ogden and the woman who sat on the bench with Eckford were brave enough to publicly support the Black students. Ogden, the pastor who is referenced in the dilemma, began to see his congregation turn against him after his continued public support of civil rights in Little Rock.
Although the nine children were unharmed, the mob did attack Black newspaper reporter L. Alex Wilson, who was gathering an eyewitness account of the protest. A cowardly racist mob kicked and shoved Wilson from behind, and as Wilson attempted to walk away, he was choked and beaten with a brick.
A few weeks later, the students were finally allowed to attend Central High. One year later, Ernest Green was the first to graduate. He went on to attend Michigan State University.
The Little Rock Nine endured years of hardship and harassment to pioneer a better future for America. Their bravery was truly remarkable.