Doing the right thing
Editor’s note: When the African American Heritage Committee asked Yokota Middle School students to write an essay on how the Voting Rights Act, Freedom Riders, sit-ins or the Little Rock Nine contributed to America’s Civil Rights movement for a chance at a $50 gift card, Clarence Terrell and Jvid Matos stepped up to the plate. While Clarence won the contest, both students read their essays at the Yokota Air Base’s 106 & Park Teen Summit on Feb. 23. Here are their essays.
The Sit-in That Was Seen All Over the World
By Clarence Terrell
One day, late in the morning four boys from A&T College went to Woolworths Luncheon. The four boys wanted to buy food but the manager of Woolworths said “No.” Their waitress asked them to leave, but instead they sat there waiting to be served. The only reason they were not being served was because it was a whites-only diner.
The four boys’ names were Franklin McCain, Izell Blair, David Richmond and Joseph McNeil. These boys sat at Woolworths every day from opening at 10:30 a.m. to closing at 5:30 p.m. Each day they came back with more Negroes, but still the waiters and waitresses would not serve them.
On the second day cameras and video cameras arrived. The news interviewed them as they sat waiting to be served. Newscasters kept asking, “Why do it here?” Every day the news came back asking the same thing. Almost everyday whites were yelling or putting up posters. Woolworths got so full of Negroes many whites had to stay outside.
Some whites protested against other whites. Once other stores heard about the sit-in they started putting up signs in the window that read “WHITES ONLY.” After a month of going to Woolworths and leaving when it closed, about thirty places in seven states were doing sit-ins. By the end of April, 50,000 Negroes were doing sit-ins. All this was started by four boys going into a whites-only diner to order food.
The Little Rock Nine
By Jvid Matos
In the 1960s, history was changed by many people like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. The Little Rock Nine were nine African-American teenagers who were enrolled by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) into Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Their names were Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Minnijean Brown, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls, Gloria Ray, Thelma Mothershed, and Melba Patillo.
They were harassed and insulted by other students. The first day, the Arkansas National Guard stopped the teens. There were bystanders near the blockade. The majority of white-American students did not want them there. A few students even threatened to kill them. Elizabeth Eckford recalled this moment:
“They moved closer and closer. ... Somebody started yelling. ... I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the crowd – someone who maybe could help. I looked into the face of an old woman and it seemed a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat on me.”
Woodrow Wilson Mann, who was the mayor of Little Rock at the time, asked President Dwight D. Eisenhower to send the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army to protect the students. They did, and the students bravely entered the high school, ensuring that all students of all races would have the right to the same education.