I walked miles to school every morning, past the closed doors of the all-white school.
Dirt clouds ruined my clothes and my shoes became worn and my hair mangled.
We were kept separate: received separate books, separate teachers, separate feelings of inferiority.
But one day, Chief Justice Earl Warren ruled separate schools could never be equal,
and I signed up to attend the formerly all-white Central High School.
Brown v. Board of Education gave me the right to go there.
There were sixteen others, but when the time came, only nine in total remained.
That first day, we didn’t even get in. The national guard prevented us from getting in.
A frustrated Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborn to escort us.
I remember the threats the mob yelled. I remember it dawning on me that they wanted to hurt me. I remember the fear that sent my heart racing as I tried to walk steadily onward.
The physical and verbal abuse were more than anyone should ever have to endure. They taunted me and pushed me and pulled me. I remember crying because it was unfair.
But I kept on. Because there were three things of which I was absolutely certain.
One: I had faith. Faith in the Lord and faith in humanity.
Two: I had support. Support from my family and support from the black community.
Three: I had a belief. A belief that I was doing the right thing.
Sometimes it takes time for people to accept things that are different or new.
But I can tell you what speeds that process along: effort and determination.