Minnijean Brown Trickey was 15 years-old when she started at Little Rock Central High School. She registered to attend Central High after she heard an announcement about having the ability to do so on the intercom at her school at the time, Horace Mann School for African-Americans. The main motivation behind her decision to switch schools was that Central High was walking distance from her house and Horace Mann was across town and did not provide any transportation services.
When Trickey was preparing to start at Central High, she didn’t expect much of a reaction to herself and the other African American students. Unfortunately, the reaction of racist white people was larger than anyone could have expected. From before they were able to step foot in the door through when they left Central High, the Little Rock Nine endured constant abuse in many forms. Trickey explained that “The abuse actually escalated over time because the 101st left, and it never ever calmed down. It didn’t suddenly become nice, it didn’t suddenly become pleasant; it was constant” (Trickey). For example, there was a group of girls who frequently spat on her, stepped on her heels and harassed her. One day, Trickey had enough of the abuse. The girls threw a purse at her in homeroom and Trickey told them to leave her alone and called them white trash. As a result, she was suspended and later expelled from Central High School. When she was leaving, white students passed around cards that stated “One down, eight to go.”
After she was expelled from Central High, Dr. Kenneth Clark and Dr. Mamie Clark, African American psychologists, invited Trickey to live with them in New York City. These doctors conducted research that produced the now famous “doll tests” that showed how racial segregation negatively impacted African American children. The doll tests were used in and influenced the outcome of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. In New York, Trickey attended and graduated from the New Lincoln School, a school that specialized in the arts. She then went on to study journalism at Southern Illinois University. Over time, Trickey continued to express strong commitment to her values. One example that showed this commitment was when she moved to Canada to protest the Vietnam War. In Canada, she earned both bachelors and masters degrees in social work. After returning to the U.S., she was a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Workforce Diversity at Department of the Interior under the Clinton administration.
Currently, Minnijean Brown Trickey is still extremely involved in social activism. She works in relation to issues such as the environment, peacemaking and youth leadership. One of Trickey’s favorite moments was when she spoke at an award ceremony for Malala Yousafzai, a young woman who was shot in the head by the Taliban because she advocated for women to be educated. Trickey sees herself and the Little Rock Nine in Malala. Both Malala and the Little Rock Nine stood up for their right to education and were abused as a result. When reflecting back on everything she endured as one of the Little Rock Nine, Minnijean Brown Trickey stated that “It wasn’t pleasant but it had to be done. I don’t regret it” (Trickey).
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