“Learn About” Questions
- Who was Daisy Bates?
- What is the NAACP? What does the NAACP do?
- Who were the segregationists in the south?
“Learn From” Questions
- Have I ever been given an opportunity that ended up being a much bigger deal than what I first thought? What was it like and how did I handle it?
- Have I ever felt unwelcome in a new group? What caused me to feel unwelcome and what did I do to overcome it?
- Have I ever been in a situation that required me to show more bravery than I thought I had? What was the experience like?
So going back to the country club, I had sort of a friendly relationship with one of the members’ sons. He would come in and we’d shoot the breeze about whatever, whatever the latest sports was and on and on. And we had a pretty good relationship. So one day he came flying into the locker room and said, you know, he was admonishing me, how could I do this, I was such a nice guy, and I was bewildered at first, what the hell he was talking about. Well, it turned out that the local newspaper had published the names of the students who had been approved to transfer, partly to get them all, everybody to quit, I’m sure. But I didn’t think it was gonna be, you know, that big a deal and that the Governor and the local political figures in Little Rock had supposedly worked out a deal, at least that was what Mrs. Bates, who was head of the Arkansas NAACP, and when it turned out that Faubus, the governor, had decided that he was basically gonna double-cross the feds, that he had agreed with them initially that things would go smoothly and that he would support this, and it’s really one of those points of ‘what if’ in history. If Orval Faubus had been supportive of school desegregation that year, it probably would’ve made a number of localities around the country go quietly and not have the constitutional crisis that we ended up with and the troops and all that, obviously. But I think he was feeling pressure from the segregationists in Arkansas. The Governor had to run every two years so the likelihood was that he felt he had to figure out doing his right-wing number and the pressure he was getting, I’m sure, from other southern Governors because they saw him as sort of the dam holding back the water and if he capitulated, then it would be pressure on each of them.
Anyway, the incident at the country club finally led me to believe that this may not be a day at the beach, and this might be a lot more going on there then I thought about. But I always wondered, when the Supreme Court decision was first handed out, who was going to implement it? Because the proof in the pudding, it’s one thing to get the agreement but the other one is, who’s going to carry it out? And that seemed to me a lot more difficult than simply handing down the decision. And as it worked out, the NAACP thought about a number of districts that were somewhere in the middle, which the Little Rock school district would be in that position and probably if you were gonna test the validity of the court decision, you had to find these middle-of-the-road moderate places that you could carry it out. Now, all of that was going on without me thinking about it. I mean, I’m 15, about to be 16, and I’m worried about graduating that year, or at least what my senior class year would look like. They hadn’t informed any of the students who were eligible to transfer who some of the other students were. In fact, Blossom, who was the superintendent of schools, quietly invited those who were on that list to come down and meet with them. So I went, my mother and I went down, and basically Blossom was using that meeting to try and get you to change your mind. And it would be a moot point if nobody black decided to transfer so we went down and had this meeting. He described all of the things that we couldn’t do as a transfer student. You couldn’t participate in extracurricular activity. I was in the band and a series of other things, and none of that would be possible. But I figured if they were putting all these restrictions, this had to be a bigger deal than they were letting on. And it made me think that this was the right thing to try and do. So in a certain sense, it convinced me that this is something I ought to follow through on.