Blindsided by History
Fifty years ago segregationists trying to keep black students out of Little Rock Central High inadvertently broke up one of the country's greatest football dynasties
Posted: Thursday April 5, 2007 3:36PM; Updated: Friday April 6, 2007 2:11PM
This picture shouldn't be published. It belongs in a moldy scrapbook in some old man's attic. Its time is done. Its way of life is finished. Even the school these 42 white boys played for a half century ago did away with it. Took it down one day to paint a hallway in the early '90s, and then....
What became of it? Some said it was stowed beneath the auditorium stage and destroyed in a fire. Some said that a black janitor threw it away along with four decades of other team photos from that hallway because no black faces appeared in them. No, others claimed, it was a black principal who decreed that the school's history began the day that all people became welcome there and that no image from its prehistoric past would ever be displayed.
Not even this one, the 1957 Little Rock Central Tigers, the best high school football team in America that year.
This story shouldn't be told. No one wants to hear it. They're all too busy celebrating another group at Central High that year -- the nine black kids. Too busy planning their 50th anniversary, building their museum across the street, getting ready for the crowds and the network news reporters and the two presidents, Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton, who will fill the school's front yard on Sept. 25 to commemorate them.
No one wants to tell this story. Not even the white boys who lived it. It reeks of political incorrectness. It's sure to be misconstrued. They can't ask you to feel for them: They're Southern Caucasian males on the other side of 65, for goodness' sake. Born and bred not to feel for themselves.
Just 42 of the white faces on the wrong side of the saga of the Little Rock 9.
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