On the shoulders of history…

 

                                                                            

                                                   

 

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I met Terrence Roberts and Carlotta Walls LaNier on Saturday. They may not be household names for some, but in civil rights history, they are giants.

They are members of the Little Rock Nine and are in town to see the inauguration.

The Little Rock Nine were the group of black students who were blocked from entering Little Rock Central High School in 1957 — three years after desegregation — because of the color of their skin. It took federal troops to escort them into the then all-white school and to protect them. And even still, that did not protect them from racially charged abuse.

And yet, they are not angry or bitter people.

Roberts said the abuse was intense, but they absorbed it.

It’s wasted energy to be angry or bitter, he said. It was energy to spend on living, and living he has indeed done — long enough for sure to see Obama elected.

I’m so grateful to have met these people.

Just as they never thought they’d see an African-American become president, I never thought I’d get a chance to meet one person – let alone two — who were at the forefront of the struggle for civil rights in this country.

Forefront is perhaps the wrong word.

Just as Obama’s election stems from what the Little Rock Nine endured, and the progress it ultimately created, people like LaNier and Roberts are humble about where their own strength came from.

“We are standing on others’ shoulders,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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