It’s with deepest sympathy for members and friends of the Green family that we acknowledge the loss of Scott Green, the youngest of the Green siblings. Scott was a member of Little Rock’s “Lost Class” the result of the closing of all Little Rock high schools following the 1957 Integration Crisis at Central High School. As a result of this, Scott had to complete his 10th grade year in Oakland, CA. Scott was an Air Force Veteran who was stationed for a time in North Dakota where he completed his GED requirements. Following his discharge, Scott joined a construction labor union prep program, directed by his brother, Ernest Green. Scott became the first black member of the NYC Sheetmetal Workers Union #28, and fought against Union discrimination until his death at 76 years of age. Scott will be dearly missed and forever loved and remembered by his family and friends and by those of us who were fortunate enough to come to know him through this project.
The Green Siblings Project was conceived with Treopia (Green) Washington while she visited South Dakota in 2017 to speak to educators about the 60th Anniversary of the 1957 desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. Treopia explained the unique perspectives of three siblings—Treopia, Ernest and Scott Green—who experienced together, three different elements of the school segregation/desegregation era… Treopia finished school at a time when schools were fully segregated. She experienced a fully segregated schooling—with African American classmates and African American teachers— who, in spite of segregated conditions, always projected, and expected excellence. Her brother, Ernest, one of the “Little Rock Nine”, and the only senior, experienced the forceful shift into the 1957 desegregation of Little Rock Central High School, when protests were so violent that President Eisenhower had to assign 1,000 soldiers from the 101st Paratrooper Division to escort the nine students. Scott, the youngest sibling, became a member of the “Lost Class” when all Little Rock high schools were closed, following Ernest’s graduation at the end of that tumultuous year. Scott had to leave Little Rock for California, in order to complete his 10th grade year.
Our hope is to capture conversations, experiences and stories from Treopia, Ernest and Scott that center around their collective and varied experiences in the segregated/desegregated South and to construct a website, documentary and book for teachers, schools and communities informed by the process developed for our own similar work in South Dakota around the interviewing of Native Elders.
The 1957 Integration Crisis at Little Rock Central High School is a key flashpoint in the development of our national view of education and educational reform. There are vital firsthand perspectives that must be captured now, while communication with the Green siblings is still a possibility. The interviews, stories and resources developed from this project will be of great value to students and educators, but also to researchers and reformers who seek a deeper understanding of the patterns of change that repeat within our national story in association with education and societal norms.
Though the story of the Little Rock Nine has been explored and communicated over the years in a number of ways (notably through the Disney film, “The Ernest Green Story”), the informal and authentic conversations among these siblings have not been tapped or captured. The experiences and insights of the Greens will add much to the national conversation, especially in the following areas: 1. equity in education, 2. culturally responsive education, and 3. how we address the needs of marginalized communities and their children. It will also help to fill out our understanding of the history of school desegregation itself.
Treopia and Ernest have spent time in South Dakota connecting with many educators and students. By sharing their experiences and wisdom from the perspective of young African American students living through desegregation in Little Rock, their stories have resonated powerfully with the contemporary experiences of young Native students navigating the challenges of the educational landscape. It is certain that these kinds of connections are possible across the nation if we capture important conversations among the Greens in time. If our nation fails to understand the lessons that this past era has for us, then we will fail our next generation of students. Capturing the knowledge of the Green Siblings now is vital for the welfare of students and educators across our nation as we grapple with the present challenges of helping ALL of our students to learn.
Most importantly, our experiences with Treopia and Ernest have shown us the outstanding courage and commitment shown by them and by others who were key in this particular shift toward equity. Their lives need to be celebrated and held up for all to see. Our students, our teachers and our communities will benefit from this powerful model that guides us through the unseen challenges that lay before us all.