Ernest Green was the oldest of the Little Rock Nine, entering Central High School his senior year. At this school, he and the eight other African American students were subjected to harsh racism and violence. Green stood up for his right to attend central because “My parents instilled in me the belief that if I fought hard enough, I could compete on an even playing field with everyone else. This is partially what drove me to be one of the first black students to integrate at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas” (Green). Green went on to become the first African American to graduate from Little Rock Central High School. After graduating from Central High, Green earned both his Bachelor of Arts in Social Science and Master of Arts in Sociology from Michigan State University.
Green then worked in the field of employment law. He took on an apprenticeship with the Adolph Institute, which helps minority women find professional careers in the South. He also directed the A. Phillip Randolf Education fund. Green eventually served as the Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Affairs under the Carter administration. He has since worked in the field of investment banking.
Ernest Green has received awards and recognition for his lifelong commitment to racial equality. He received honorary doctorates from Central State University, Tougaloo College and Michigan State University. Additionally, Green received the Spingarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Congressional Gold Medal from President Clinton. He has also served on boards for several organizations, including: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and the African Development Foundation. He was also honored at his graduation from Little Rock Central High School when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. attended. Dr. King attended because Green was the first African American to graduate from Central High and he symbolized a milestone in the history of racial integration.
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