“Learn About” Questions
- What is the Lost Class at Central High School?
- Why did the governor choose to close the high schools in Little Rock? What impact did it have on the community?
- How did Scott becoming a member of the Sheet Metal Workers Union impact Civil Rights?
“Learn From” Questions
- Do I remember a time I had to miss out on something due to the choices made by someone else? What happened?
- Are there things I talk with my family about often? Are there things we never talk about?
- What is my relationship like with education in general? What positive or negative experiences have impacted how I feel about school?
We have really, in the past couple years, just begun to talk a lot. In fact, we visit with each other almost every Sunday by telephone for at least an hour. But one of the things, and he still doesn’t talk about it, not outwardly, but I really think he was the one who caught the brunt of some of the meanness that occurred. I think he answered the telephone. And I know, and again, neither my brother or my mother before she passed, talked about things, negative things that happened. Because that was just not a part of our DNA. When something negative happens, it’s usually something, you’re OK, but there’s this other person who doesn’t understand what they’re supposed to do. But I really think he still harbors some of the effects of some of that. He was, and you probably know, was a member of the Lost Class. This is a class the year after Ernest graduated, that were victims of the closed schools. The governor closed every high school in Little Rock because he was determined that no other black person would graduate from Central. And my brother Scott was in the 10th grade. He told me last year, I didn’t know this, that my mother tried him in eight different school districts in Little Rock but because she was teaching and my father had passed, logistically it was just impossible to operate under those circumstances. So in October of that year, she sent him to Oakland, California, to live with two aunts whom he had never met and I didn’t realize until a couple years ago that I think he finished the 10th grade but he didn’t finish high school and in fact we were talking just recently, maybe a couple weeks ago, and he for the first time, I heard him say something about regretting not going to college as mother had wished. But I really think his experiences just really soured his relationship with formal ed although we always said he was the smartest one of all of us. And is probably now the best well-read of the three of us. But he was telling me again last year, he went into the Air Force. And I think probably that was, again, a rebuttal against some of the things that had happened. But he said one night the army, the corporal or whoever he was, came to him and said he was going to take the GED the next day. So he said, OK. He took it and aced it. But he’s a natural brain. And we have just all remained close. I think I may have mentioned too that Scott was one of the first people in the program that Ernest was director of in New York that placed minority men and women, or trained them rather, to join labor unions and to do construction work. And Scott became the first black member of the Sheet Metal Workers Unit 28 in New York. And to this day he is still involved in litigation for equity and equality in the union. But he has retired and in fact, he worked on many of the buildings in New York that are now standing. But I just feel that that experience in ’57 and ’58 was something that had long-term effects and not really positive effects.