MAY 27, 1958

Ernest Green in senior graduation cap and gown; May 1958.

Ernest Green, one of the Little Rock Nine, became the first Black American to graduate from newly integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Forty years later, the campus became part of the National Park Service, and the Little Rock Nine received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor. 

On the 10th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, President Clinton honored them for “what these people did to make the walls of bigotry and prejudice fall in America. For when they marched up the steps to school — a simple act — they became foot soldiers for freedom, carrying America to higher ground.” 

These nine students passed through a “volcano of hatred,” he said, but “like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, they walked out without being burned. But they have their scars. They taught us that you can turn your cheek from violence without averting your eyes to injustice.”

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.

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