Before he was Dr. Terrence Roberts, the boy Terrence and eight of his classmates turned into the Little Rock Nine, a group of young African Americans who in 1957 inspired the world and the modern civil rights movement.
Dr. Roberts was on the Vineyard this week for a talk on Tuesday about those events of fall 1957. After the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision ending segregation, the nine students were registered to attend Little Rock Central High. But they were blocked by so-called citizen’s councils of segregationists, supported by National Guard soldiers mobilized by the governor. President Dwight D. Eisenhower intervened; police slipped the children into the school past the protesters. White residents rioted. Armed guards remained all year.
Recalling the danger and abuse of those days, Dr. Roberts, now a psychologist and head of the Terrence J. Roberts and Associates Consulting Group, says the experience “had a very definite inspiring impact.
“I’m fascinated by people and all of those crazy people in Little Rock. It added a lot of curiosity about people,” he told a capacity audience at his talk, part of Elderhostel’s Road Scholar’s (a division of Elderhostel) Second Annual Taste of Road Scholar on Martha’s Vineyard program.
Robert C. Hayden, president of the Martha’s Vineyard branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and also one of the premier scholars of African American History on Martha’s Vineyard, called it “an important part of our historical memory on the Vineyard.”