To The Editor:
“Don’t be selfish, Melba!” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. charged a tearful, 16-year-old Melba Pattillo as she hesitated to attend Little Rock’s Central High School in September 1957.
“Stop complaining! You are not doing this for yourself, you are doing it for generations you have not seen, who you have not met,” he strongly admonished as reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Melba was one of nine students who courageously integrated Little Rock’s Central High School 60 years ago.
What would become a defining moment in the South’s resistance to civil rights began quietly with a plan by the Little Rock Board of Education to integrate the city’s schools.
What happened after transformed the country.
That emotional weekend is a reminder of how incredibly important it is for our youth to remain connected to our history.
The German Heibronner Stimme runs the story and pictures every year of the firebombing on Dec. 4, 1944, of that city. Their youth will never forget the cost of war.
Whether it’s our fight for independence, the Holocaust, Civil War, Little Rock Nine, slavery or Sand Creek massacre, our young people need to understand that someone fought hard, often paying the ultimate price for rights that they would never fully enjoy themselves, so that we may enjoy them freely today.
To remove or destroy artifacts and monuments of the past is wrong. They are there so that youth may be informed and avoid repeating the mistakes of previous generations.
Today, we face efforts to roll back the progress of our nation for racial unity, equality and opportunity by removing part of our history or placing it out of sight.