Ernest Green, one of the famed "Little Rock Nine" students who desegregated Central High in Little Rock, Ark., in 1957, shared his powerful story with the RE community and students during lectures on Feb. 12 and 13. "It was a war zone," Green recalled about attending the previously all-white high school. "We were perceived as the enemy."
A special guest of RE's Black Students Association, Green was introduced at both events at the Lewis Family Auditorium by club president Briana Pottinger '18. His visit came a week after former NASA astronaut Winston Scott, a Coconut Grove native, addressed the entire student body. Green's and Scott's visits have highlighted the school's celebration of Black History Month.
Green, a senior in 1957, was the oldest of the nine African-American students met on the first day of school by the Arkansas National Guard. Green recalled daily torment from many of his peers: physical and verbal abuse, theft of belongings and social isolation. "There was a concerted effort by some to drive us out of school," he said. "I knew how to torment my tormenters – by staying in class."
He described the biggest problem as not the direct abuse from some, but the silence from many others.
"The bulk of the people were .... 'Don't get me involved. It's not my struggle,'" he said.
He admonished RE students to choose a different path: "Don't stand to the side with your head down. When you see something, say something... You have a choice in how you are remembered in history. Will you be a major player in time, or a footnote of inaction?"
Green said he was sustained by his desire to earn his high school degree. On his graduation day, despite fears he would face an assassination attempt, he walked across the stage to accept his diploma. No one applauded except for his family members – and Martin Luther King, Jr. The renowned Civil Rights hero sat with Green's mother.
In 1958, Green was awarded the prestigious Spingarn Medal, which is presented annually for outstanding achievements of African Americans by the NAACP, and later the nation’s highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal.
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.