Member of Little Rock Nine speaks to Fargo studentsFargo, ND (WDAY TV) - It was a real lesson in history today for Fargo high school students. Dr. Terrance Roberts, one of the Little Rock 9, is sharing his school memories of abuse, harassment and fear.
It was a real lesson in history today for Fargo high school students. Dr. Terrance Roberts, one of the Little Rock 9, is sharing his school memories of abuse, harassment and fear.
When 15 year-old Terrence Roberts showed up for school at the newly integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957, he was met with National Guard members. The governor ordered them to block the entry of Roberts and eight other black students.
Dr. Terrance Roberts – Little Rock Nine Member: "I didn't think there was a second in any day I didn't think about quitting because it was hard, it was scary and I really feared I might be killed."
The guard finally left after two weeks. But the battle was far from over.
Dr. Terrance Roberts: "They hit and scratched and pushed, they bit and slapped and shoved down stairs and hit with baseball bats and threw objects."
While there were some safe havens like the library and Roberts' algebra class, places like the lunch room…
Dr. Terrance Roberts: "Lunch was a place where we were very vulnerable, stuff was thrown into food. Stuff thrown at us."
…and the gym…
Dr. Terrance Roberts: "I was the only black kid in this group of 50, 60 white kids and they used me for target practice."
…were all together terrifying. Even an English teacher showed her prejudice.
Dr. Terrance Roberts: "She caught me and said 'why do you want to go to our school, why don't you go back to your school.'"
But through it all, Roberts never fought back.
Dr. Terrance Roberts: "I think it's important especially young people to realize that there are other options available. You do not have to fight. I'm anti-war, I'm anti-gun."
And within those hours of fear and intimidation, Roberts found moments of kindness. Like when a fellow white student shared her math book after others destroyed his.
Dr. Terrance Roberts: "They were so afraid of any interaction at all of any degree between a white female and a black male, but she defied that and we studied together."
Roberts told students to model the girl's behavior: To do what's right even it means rejection by your friends.
Dr. Terrance Roberts: "When you know the truth, when you know what's right, you don't have to worry what other people have to say or do because obviously they're wrong."
After the school year ended at Central High, the Roberts family moved L.A. He graduated from high school there and went on to earn a doctorate in psychology. Despite his years of success, Roberts never forgot his year at Central High.
Dr. Terrance Roberts: "It took us a while to finally figure out this thing was bigger than the nine of us. It was historically significant."
Dr. Roberts also spoke to students at North and South today.