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The Courageous Life of Ernest Green

April 20, 2011 in 1950s-1960s

          Ernest Green was born on September 22, 1941 in Little Rock Arkansas. He was taught to have self-respect and confidence by his parents. He was involved in his community at an early age as he attended church regularly and was a member of the boy scouts, where he later went on to become an eagle scout. At the age of seventeen Green was presented with an opportunity that would ultimately change his life and the lives of millions of African-Americans [i].
          Ernest was enrolled at Horace Mann High School, but was given the opportunity along with eight other African-Americans in Carlotta Walls, Jefferson Thomas, Gloria Ray, Elizabeth Eckford, Thelma Mothershed, Terrence Roberts, Minnijean Brown, and Melba Pattillo to enroll into the segregated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. These Nine individuals are now known as the “Little Rock Nine”. Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the nine from entering the school, but two weeks later on September 25, 1957 President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent units from the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, KY to remove the National Guard and escort the students into the school. The units were ordered to stay there for the remainder of the year to protect the students and keep riots at bay [ii].

The "nine" being escorted by the 101st Airborne

          Green, along with the other eight, faced daily controversies from the other white students in the school as they were harassed, both verbally and physically, on a daily basis. It took an extreme amount of courage and bravery for them to keep from retaliating back and staying focused and determined to finish out the year. In an interview, Green said, “It’s been an interesting year. I’ve had a course in human relations first hand.” At the end of the year before graduation Green was advised to not attend the graduation ceremony to keep riots from uprising and that he would be mailed his diploma. He replied by saying, “Not in this lifetime”, as he laughed. At the graduation sitting by his parents sat Dr. Martin Luther King Jr [iii].
          Following graduation, Green went on to attend Michigan State University where in 1962 he obtained his BA in science and two years in 1964 obtained his MA in sociology. After college he was appointed as the director of the A. Phillip Randolph Education Fund, where he worked from 1968 to 1977. He then landed the job as the Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Affairs from 1977 to 1981. Joining the Lehman Brothers, an investment banking firm in Washington DC, in 1987 he became the Managing Director, where he still works today. He has also been involved with a number of boards such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation [iiii].
          Because of his bravery and unprecedented actions Green has been honored by many associations. In 1958 he was awarded the Spingarn Medal, given annually by the NAACP to those who contribute outstanding achievements for African-Americans. In 1999, Green was award the highest civilian award in the Congressional Gold Medal by President Bill Clinton. Green was also the feature of Disney’s 1992 production The Ernest Green Story. He is married to Phyllis Green and together they have three children.

[i] “Ernest Gideon Green (1941-).” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Available from http://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=722. Internet; accessed 19 April 2011.
[ii]”Little Rock Nine.” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Available from http://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=722. Internet; accessed 19 April 2011.

[iii]”Ernest Gideon Green (1941-).” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Available from http://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=722. Internet; accessed 19 April 2011.
[iiii”Ernest Gideon Green (1941-).” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Available from http://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=722. Internet; accessed 19 April 2011.

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