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'History is more beautiful and more terrible than we know': Member of the Little Rock Nine shares her story on MLK Day

After 50 years of silence, member of Little Rock Nine opens up about harrowing experience
Posted at 5:31 PM, Jan 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-17 19:35:47-05

MICHIGAN — It’s been almost 65 years since she first stepped foot inside Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas but Minnijean Brown-Trickey talks about it like it was yesterday.

Brown-Trickey is now 80 years old and is one of the members of the Little Rock Nine.

On Jan. 17, 2022, she and four others will be sharing their stories during a presentation to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Minniejean Brown-Trickey took a chance as a teenager living in the Jim Crow South, and decades later you can find her name in history books.

As a member of the Little Rock Nine at central high school in Arkansas Brown-Trickey witnessed rallies against desegregation and experienced both verbal and physical abuse.

“We were trying to live our lives. And they were trying to stop us from living our lives” said Brown Trickery. “They were screaming hatred. And they were saying kill them. We were really scared. Very scared. But the still pictures, you can't tell.”

'History is more beautiful and more terrible than we know': Member of the Little Rock Nine shares her story on MLK Day

Much of which she says went undocumented. Until she retaliated.

“These boys were slamming against me in the cafeteria, and I dropped my tray of my chili on them. I got suspended for being attacked” Brown-Trickery explained.

Eventually, she was expelled.

Brown-Trickey kept many details from her parents and her parents did the same when they received threats over the phone.

“We didn't talk about it. Because we didn't. We were protecting each other.”

Later in life, her mother shared that she and her husband considered pulling her out of school. But chose not to because they understood its importance.

“The parents are the heroes.”

Now, at 80 years old, Brown-Trickey says she’s no longer angry.

“Came to the understanding that my primary feeling about Central was sorrow, not anger.

“I could waste time wasted waste energy. Because I don't think you can think when you're mad, I don't think you can.”

Brown-Trickey says her experience influenced her to be a better person and to not stoop to that level of hatred.

After being expelled from Central High School, she went on to live with doctors Kenneth and Mamie Clark who were critical in the Brown V. Board of Education Supreme Court Case that ruled segregation unconstitutional.

She is an award-winning social justice advocate and served in the Clinton Administration’s Department of Interior as Deputy Assistant Secretary for workforce diversity.

When talking about letting go of hate she mentioned the importance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s messages beyond his “I Have a Dream” speech.

She says his Six Principles of Nonviolence is not as well-known as the iconic speech, but just as powerful.

She says his words should be taken into consideration in today’s society.

“I can't see much difference between 1957 and 2022. If we think about it, what is our most pressing problem?” Brown-Trickery asked. “Is violence and its violence. What it at every level? How do we keep tolerating that? And what does that say about us?”

Brown-Trickey is one of four members of the Little Rock Nine speaking tonight for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. commission of mid-Michigan.

The chairperson for the organization says the presentation is meant to continue the story of the civil rights movement and says the Little Rock Nine was a pivotal point in the movement’s history.

“I don't think any of them knew that the in the world, the entire eyes of the world would be upon them when they signed up. They did it because they had a belief that they could make a difference,” Elaine Hardy, Chairperson to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan explained.

“I hope that students who are watching our broadcast will take that away from this broadcast, that it does not matter how young you are, that you can make a difference in this world and that your voice matters.”

The hour-long presentation will be moderated by Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist.

It begins at 7 p.m. it will be streamed live online.