The following scene takes place on May 29, 1958, at the Little Rock Central High School graduation. On that day, Ernest Green, became the first black person graduate from Little Rock Central High School, after he and eight other African American teenagers (known as the Little Rock Nine,) enrolled at the school. Their enrollment was followed by the Little Rock Crisis, an event in which Governor Orval Faubus attempted to prevent the students from entering the racially segregated school, and President Eisenhower sent federal troops to protect the nine students.
NOTE: I have researched all historical events to the best of my ability to assure historical accuracy. However, if you should read and see errors, please don’t hesitate to let me know!
As the sun set behind the stadium, the warm, humid air turned damp and cool. Sachi buttoned her sweater as she watched the long procession of graduates begin to cross the stage.
Adams, Anderson, Avery…Baker, Bevins, Brown… Cheers came in waves through the audience, led by family and friends of each graduate. Carver, Cassidy, Clayton…Davis, Decker, Draper…More whistles and cheers. Eckhardt, Edwards, Evans…Fenton, Flanders, Franks…Sachi sat up straight, excited to see history made when Ernest Green crossed the stage.
Gavin, Gotwals . . . more cheering, and Sachi prepared to cheer for the only person she’d come to see.
She stood to clap, but Terrence grabbed her arm and pulled her down. Silence shuddered through the night and she felt a thousand eyes upon her.
But the first Negro to graduate from Little Rock Central High School walked across that stage with his head held high. And his mama watched, like they were the only two people in the world.
The cheering continued with the call of the next name, and Sachi again felt the complete loneliness of being in a group of those not wanted. The only comfort she found was in the congratulations being whispered up and down the row of colored people.
The rest of the ceremony dragged on, from H through Z. She only clapped because everyone else in her row clapped, perhaps to be polite. Or, perhaps they were afraid of what would happen if they didn’t.
When at last the graduates sang “On Tigers!” and tossed their caps into the air, Sachi had never been so happy for an event to be over.
As they turned to leave, Terrence touched her arm. “Sachi, Jubie, wait. There’s someone else I’d like you to meet before we leave.”
When Sachi turned around, she saw the man who had been sitting beside Daisy now stood next to Terrence.
“Sachi, Jubie, this is Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King, these are my friends, Sachi Clark and Jubie Franklin.”