Ernest Green, one of nine students who in 1957 integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, urged University of Mary Washington students to be agents of change, not just passive observers in the continuing fight for social justice.
Green made the comments as keynote speaker during the Jan. 21 commemoration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr.
As a member of the Little Rock Nine, Green became the first African-American student to graduate from the formerly all-white Central High. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Michigan State University, Green worked to help minority women in the South secure jobs. He was an assistant labor secretary to President Jimmy Carter. In 1999, President Bill Clinton presented Green and the other members of the Little Rock Nine the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor awarded to civilians.
At UMW, Green emphasized that people who will never be famous make important contributions toward change, according to The Blue & Gray Press, UMW’s student newspaper. And while it’s fine to advocate change using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, he said, speaking up online goes only so far. It shouldn’t be a substitute for action.