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Questioning the Truth of History

Civil Rights activist Minnijean Brown-Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine, discusses the need for America to face the truth and understand it — especially in schools — if we want to see change.
Minnijean Brown-Trickey
Minnijean Brown-Trickey

As far as it may seem that we have come regarding race and equity in America, there is still so much more to be done, says Minnijean Brown-Trickey. As one of the nine African American teenagers who became known as the “Little Rock Nine” when the city attempted to desegregate Little Rock Central High School in 1957, Brown-Trickey faced extreme opposition and harassment — issues of race relations that continue to exist across the United States today.

“We shouldn’t have to be dealing with this 60 years later,” she says. “Little Rock should be a story about a distant past we are not dealing with anymore, but, in fact, comes to us in a present that’s continuing to deal with the same issue.”

Brown-Trickey isn’t surprised that the same issues exist because, she says, American history — and how it is taught — hasn’t entirely owned up to the truth. Consider the fact that the story of the Little Rock Nine takes up merely one paragraph in most history books. “Our collective amnesia about the truth of the United States history really gets in our way of having effective schools,” she says.

Brown-Trickey dismisses those quick to cast off Little Rock as a problem unique to the South. “We’re talking the United States. We can point our finger at Little Rock, but it’s a United States problem. It’s a Boston problem. It’s a New York problem. It’s Little Rock; it’s Charlotte; it’s our national disgrace. So nobody gets off on this one,” she says.

In this edition of the Harvard EdCast, activist Brown-Trickey discusses the need for America to face the truth and understand it — especially in schools — if we want to see change.

About the Harvard EdCast

The Harvard EdCast is a weekly series of podcasts, available on the Harvard University iTunes U page, that features a 15-20 minute conversation with thought leaders in the field of education from across the country and around the world. Hosted by Matt Weber and co-produced by Jill Anderson, the Harvard EdCast is a space for educational discourse and openness, focusing on the myriad issues and current events related to the field.


An education podcast that keeps the focus simple: what makes a difference for learners, educators, parents, and communities

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