Aug 05, 2020
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The missing story of Little Rock


Ryan Tubongbanua / The Collegian

The son of a courageous white man, tells his father’s story of walking nine African-American students into an intergrated high school — ‘The Little Rock Nine.’

More than a dozen clergymen said “no” when asked to walk nine African-American students to school.

These men felt they had a lot to lose if the white community was to think they supported the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957.

One said yes and lost his congregation.

“Jude betrayed Jesus. Betancourt betrayed a nation and you betrayed a race,” said University of California, Berkeley professor, Dunbar Hunt Ogden, describing the mail his family got as a result of his father’s decision.

Dunbar Hunt Ogden is son of the Dunbar Ogden Sr., the pastor who walked with the teenagers and the object of the hate mail.

The Presbyterian pastor got a call late one night from Daisy Bates, a journalist and NAACP president at the time. She asked Ogden Sr. to use his respected position to help the students walk to an all-white school the following day.

“He had a powerful sense of fair play,” Ogden said. “The only time I saw him angry is if he saw some kind of injustice.”

The Arkansas Governor at the time, Orval Faubus, had said, “Blood will run in the streets if Negro pupils should attempt to enter Central High School.”

After hours of thinking and praying, he agreed to do it, despite the fact that no other member of the Little Rock Ministerial Association, of which he was president, would go with him.

“My mom told him ‘do what you think is right,’” Dunbar Hunt Ogden said.

“David, our younger brother, who was about 6’1” and about 190 pounds said, ‘Dad, I think you are going to need a bodyguard. May I go with you,’” Ogden said.

The kids did make it to school that day.

They faced lots of hardships during their schooling, but they graduated.

They were able to take some of the 50 university prerequisites that the “white school” offered, that the “black school” didn’t.

They became “The Little Rock Nine,” the first to attend an integrated public school in the United States.

When all this was happening Ogden was in Germany and all he got to hear were stories from his
mother.

One time she sent him a newspaper cutout that talked about his father.

“I went in search of my father,” Ogden said. “I got to know another side of him, but when they spoke about him I knew it was true, I knew it was him.”

When he returned home, Ogden wrote a book about his father and the collaboration between Daisy Bates and Dunbar Ogden Sr.

“Daisy Bates told me he was a man among men,” Ogden said. “You could trust everything she said and she hated clergymen; she hated organized religion as a whole.”

“I am lucky that he was my father.”

The difficulties the family endured because of Ogden’s Sr.’s decision were harsh and lasting.

He was fired and the entire family had to relocate to avoid being the target of harassment.

“David stayed behind,” Ogden said. “He was harassed. He couldn’t take it and shot himself.”

“This book is not a memorial to David,” he added.

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