Ernest Green

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Ernest Green
Born Ernest Gideon Green
(1941-09-22) September 22, 1941 (age 72)
Little Rock, Arkansas, USA
Political movement
African-American Civil Rights Movement
Spouse(s) Phyllis
Children Adam, Jessica and MacKenzie
Awards Congressional Gold Medal

Ernest Gideon Green (born September 22, 1941) was one of the Little Rock Nine, a group of African-American students who, in 1957, were the first black students ever to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Green was the first African-American to graduate from the school in 1958. In 1999, he and the other members of the Little Rock Nine were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President Bill Clinton.

Early life and education[edit]

Ernest Green was born in Little Rock to Lothaire and Ernest Green, Sr. Following his brush with national fame, Green attended Michigan State University as the beneficiary of a scholarship provided by an anonymous donor. While at Michigan State, Green became a charter member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity's Sigma chapter and continued to engage in activism and protests supporting the Civil Rights movement. He later learned that the anonymous donor was John A. Hannah, the president of Michigan State, and ironically, an occasional target of protests by Civil Rights activists including Green. Green graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1962 and a Master's degree in sociology in 1964. Green also was the top of his class.

Excerpt from the 50 year anniversary program;

Born in Little Rock in 1941, Ernest Green made history on May 27, 1958, when he became the first African-American to graduate from Little Rock's Central High School, following a school year that began with a Constitutional crisis. The son of Lothaire and Ernest Green Sr., Ernest has a brother, Scott, and a sister Treopia Washington.

Like the rest of the Little Rock Nine, Green came from a family which placed a lot of emphasis on the importance of education and personal development. Consequently, Green participated in church activities and the Boy Scouts of America, eventually earning the rank of Eagle Scout.[1] He attended segregated Dunbar Junior High School and graduated after ninth grade, at which time he was assigned to Horace Mann High School, a new high school for African-Americans.

At the end of his junior year at Horace Mann, Green volunteered to attend the all-white Little Rock Central High School in fall of 1957 and help desegregate one of the nation's largest schools. Central High offered a wider and more complex curriculum than Horace Mann did, making educational opportunities available quite desirable.

Green became the only senior among the nine African Americans who decided to integrate Central High that fall. Not only did Green survive the daily harassment and intermittent violence the rest of the Little Rock Nine experienced, he had to study extraordinarily hard to make sure he graduated and could demonstrate that African Americans were equally capable of attending Central High as anyone else. Green was the first student of the Little Rock Nine to graduate from Central High.

Martin Luther King Jr., who was in Arkansas to speak at Arkansas Agriculture Mechanical and Normal College’s commencement in Pine Bluff, attended the graduation with the Green family. Ernest’s career has included nonprofit work at the A. Phillip Randolph Education Fund (1968–1977), and experience in government as the Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Affairs under President Jimmy Carter (1977–1981).

Television portrayals[edit]

Green has been depicted in two made-for-television movies about the Little Rock Nine. He was portrayed by Calvin Levels in the 1981 CBS movie Crisis at Central High,[2] and by Morris Chestnut in the 1993 Disney Channel movie The Ernest Green Story.[3]

In 1980, he was part of the Milton Friedman (PBS) Free to Choose panel discussion (volume 8 of 10) related to workers rights and the economy.

See also[edit]

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