Terrence Roberts

TR: Well, there were literally three first days. I will start with the first one. The very first day we attempted to enter we were rebuffed by the National Guard. So we had to go home. We came back after about three weeks this time under the protection under the Little Rock police force which in retrospect was a huge mistake. We were almost killed that day because the line of policemen couldn’t hold them off on they were reluctant to hold them off. In any case the mob came charging in the school and we had to get out of there as quickly as we could. The third time now here’s the very first day. We got into school with the help of the US Army and I felt good because now we had the army at our backs. And even so we still had to cope with resistance but we could do it now because we felt secure with the army there, guns and knives and boots and that stuff.

Student: What was it like balancing school work and the negativity surrounding you being there?

TR: Oh good question because you see all of us had understood, negativity around us had nothing to do with us. It was not definitive of who we were. In fact I had a mental rating skill for the quality of insults that I would hear. I didn’t expect that they would be insults directed at me, but I was interested in the creative level of the one throwing the insult so my scale was from 1-10, 1 being umm not so good but 10 being oh, my great. Nobody scored above 2 the whole year. They weren’t very creative. (smiles)

Student: What gave you the courage to go to school every day?

TR: That’s a harder question because I don’t know the full answer, but I think in part it was because we had the law on our side, it was the right thing to do, it was not only right legally, it was right morally. And I also had sure knowledge that mean people before me already died in the same cause fighting for freedom, liberty and justice. People had given up their lives and I was now standing on them, standing on their shoulders and if I had chosen not to be there it would have been the same as virtually spitting on their graves, saying what you did was worthless I couldn’t do that. So that was impotence to go every day.