Civil Rights Activist Who Integrated Central High School in 1957
Minnijean Brown Trickey was only sixteen years old when she became involved in one of the most pivotal acts of the American Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century. As one of The Little Rock Nine, she along with eight other Black American teenagers, defied death threats, hostile white demonstrators, and even the Arkansas National Guard, to attend the all-White Little Rock Central High in 1957. Rising above the adversity, she took a courageous step that not only changed her life and education, but the lives and educations of African Americans around the country.
When the nine Black students enrolled in Central High School, it was one the nation’s premier schools and racial segregation had been declared illegal two years earlier by the Supreme Court in the Brown vs. the Board of Education decision of 1954. Yet, Central High School, along with the rest of the schools in the South remained segregated. To enforce this illegal segregation, Arkansas governor, Orval Faubus, instructed the Arkansas National Guard to surround the school and turn the nine students away. President Eisenhower intervened and sent in Army troops to escort the Black students into the school. .
The oldest of four children of Mr. & Mrs. W. B. Brown, Brown Trickey was beginning her junior year at Central High School when the vicious harassment including death threats began. Brown Trickey finally reacted to one of the humiliating and unrelenting attacks by White students, and she was expelled. Her family knew her life was in danger and she was sent to live in New York City. She graduated from New Lincoln High School in 1959, and later from Southern Illinois University.
Following graduation, Brown and her husband moved to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, where they raised their six children (three boys and three girls). She has had a lifetime commitment to peacemaking; environmental issues; developing youth leadership; diversity education and training; cross-cultural communication; gender and social justice advocacy. Her teaching experience in social work and cross-cultural communication includes Carleton University, and community colleges in Canada.
Brown Trickey served in Clinton Administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Workforce Diversity at the Department of the Interior. As consultant, she has trained nationally and internationally in anti-racism, diversity, feminist research, cross-cultural communications and organizational change.
She has been a facilitator/teacher for the Sojourn to the Past Project, which has made it possible for more than 3000 high school students to have a ten-day interactive history course that travels to civil rights sites, meeting with key leaders and participants in the southern United States.
She is the recipient of numerous awards for her community work for social justice, including: Lifetime Achievement Tribute by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation; the International Wolf Project Award for contributions to racial harmony; and, with the Little Rock Nine, she received the NAACP Spingarn Medal and the Congressional Gold Medal.
Today, she continues to promote the theory and practice of nonviolence, as means toward social change as a teacher, writer and lecturer. Journey to Little Rock: The Untold Story of Minnijean Brown is an acclaimed documentary that follows her life of passionate social activism and recognizes a woman, who through her own experience and courage, has moved history forward.