A man who faced down violent crowds and antagonistic schoolmates amid the upheaval of desegregation in the American South encouraged students to be equally purposeful in their pursuit of an education during a visit to Hoover High School on Monday.
“You are all executives in charge of your own learning,” Terrence Roberts, a member of the Little Rock Nine, said. “You have brains. You have the capacity to earn ‘As.’”
Roberts was one of nine black students who in September 1957 began attending Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., integrating a formerly all-white campus in a community where segregation was deeply entrenched. Photographs capturing the teenagers entering the school under military guard are some of the most iconic of the civil rights movement.
Speaking at Hoover during the school’s annual human rights assembly, Roberts recalled his decision to brave the furor.
“When you get in that sort of situation and you recognize the danger you have to make a decision, ‘Am I going to face the danger or run away from it?’” Roberts said. “The nine of us decided to stay in position to face the opposition. It wasn’t an easy thing to do.”