Saturday, September 18, 2010

Portrait of civil rights pioneer unveiled

A portrait of civil rights pioneer Barbara Johns was unveiled this week in our nation's capitol:

Johns, then 16, led a 1951 student strike in Prince Edward County that led to the inclusion of Virginia in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawing school segregation.

The portrait depicts Johns on April 23, 1951, the day of the student strike. It was painted by Richmond native Louis Briel.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hymn inspired Jefferson Thomas of the Little Rock Nine

Today's New York Times obituary of Jefferson Thomas of the Little Rock Nine features the following segment about what inspired Mr.; Thomas to hang on as he suffered from hate and abuse at Central High School in 1957 and 1958:

In 2007, Mr. Thomas told The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that prayer had helped him through the integration struggle. He said that one Sunday at church he heard the hymn “Lord, Don’t Move My Mountain, Just Give Me the Strength to Climb,” inspiring him to pray for strength, rather than for the acceptance of his classmates.

“It seemed that overnight, things stopped being so bad,” he said. “The same things were happening, but they didn’t hurt me as much. I didn’t feel like I was a failure. I felt victorious because I made it through the day.”

Jefferson Thomas, one of Little Rock Nine, dead at 68

Jefferson Thomas, one of the Little Rock Nine, died Sunday at age 68 from pancreatic cancer.

From the AP obituary:

Mr. Thomas played a number of sports and was on the track team at Dunbar Junior High School, but others had little to do with him once he entered Central, the state's largest high school.

"I had played with some of the white kids from the neighborhood," Mr. Thomas said. "I went up to Central High School after school, and we played basketball and touch football together. I knew some of the kids.

"Eventually, I ran into them . . . and they were not at all happy to see me," Mr. Thomas added. "One of them said: 'Well, I don't mind playing basketball or football with you or anything. You guys are good at sports. Everybody knows that, but you're just not smart enough to sit next to me in the classroom.'"

Ms. Beals said Monday that Mr. Thomas was nicknamed "'Roadrunner' because he was so fast. You could sometimes avoid danger by running fast."