Ernest Green is one of the legendary “Little Rock Nine” who integrated Central High School in 1957-58.

Ernest Green, Civil Rights Pioneer, to Speak at MLK Prayer Breakfast

Ernest Green is one of the legendary “Little Rock Nine” who integrated Central High School in 1957-58.

The breakfast, sponsored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County, will be held Saturday, January 19, 2019 at the Crowne Plaza Resort.

The keynote speaker for the 38th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast will be Ernest Green, one of the legendary “Little Rock Nine” who integrated Central High School in 1957-58. The breakfast, sponsored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County, will be held Saturday, January 19, 2019 at the Crowne Plaza Resort. The event begins at 8:30 a.m., with doors opening at 8:00 a.m.

Green was the only senior among the nine students admitted to Central High under court orders from the federal government, all of whom were chosen for their character and intellect.

Both the NAACP—which had brought the original lawsuit Brown v. Board of Education, argued by future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall—and local educators, pastors, and community leaders wanted to ensure that every student would perform well academically no matter how difficult the circumstances they faced. And in fact, the children were threatened, harassed, punched, kicked, spat on, yelled at, pushed down stairways, had food poured on their heads and clothing, their books trashed and stolen, and often had to run a gauntlet of racist white students and their parents—with little support from indifferent teachers and administrators. They were accompanied by U.S. soldiers and National Guardsmen, though sometimes ineffectively; and after that first year, Gov. Orval Faubus closed the school altogether as a way to keep the black children from attending.

Green graduated in 1958, but the rest of the students were forced to go elsewhere—until, in 1959, the school reopened with several other African Americans among the student body.

As a result of his courage and determination in surviving that year at Central High, Green received the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal at the age of 17—the youngest recipient in the organization’s history. He also became an Eagle Scout and was awarded the Silver Beaver Award, the highest distinction in the Boy Scouts of America.

Following graduation, Green earned a bachelor’s degree in social science and a masters in sociology from Michigan State University. (He has also received honorary doctorates from Michigan State University, Tougaloo College, and Central State University.)

Green has enjoyed an illustrious career in policy-making under two presidents, and in Wall Street finance. He served as President Jimmy Carter’s Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training, formulating policy and directing training and employment security programs, apprenticeship programs, public service employment, alien worker certification, and work incentive programs for the disadvantaged. President Bill Clinton appointed him Chairman of the African Development Foundation, and Clinton’s Secretary of Education, Richard W. Riley, named him Chairman of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Capital Financing Advisory Board.

As a partner at Matrix Advisory, with offices in New York and Washington, DC, Ernest Green’s long involvement in helping states, cities, municipalities and governmental authorities finance their needs has led to his helping lead Matrix into a new era of public-private partnerships. He also uses his international contacts to assist international leaders with their needs, particularly in the area of infrastructure.

Mr. Green serves on the Board of Directors of Fisk University, Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) Network, and Clark Atlanta University Board of Trustees. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Executive Leadership Council, and the National Association of Securities Professionals (NASP), which he chaired for two years. Other awards include the Urban League’s Frederick Douglass Freedom Medal and the John D. Rockefeller Public Service Award.

On November 9, 1999 Mr. Green, along with the rest of the Little Rock Nine, was presented by President Clinton with America’s highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, for his outstanding bravery during his year at Central High School. On August 20, 2005 they were honored with a commemorative stamp by the U.S. Postal Service, and in 2007 President George Bush signed an Executive Order authorizing the U.S. Mint to issue a one-dollar coin commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Little Rock Nine.

Green is a founding charter member of the Sigma chapter of Omega Psi Phi, as well as past Sire Archon of Sigma Pi Phi. He has been featured three times in Black Enterprise magazine’s list of the top 25 African Americans on Wall Street.

Commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In addition to the Prayer Breakfast, the MLK Association holds other events during the national holiday weekend to commemorate Dr. King and build upon his legacy of peace and justice.

A Peace March and Rally will take place beginning at 11:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21, at St. James AME Church at Martin Luther King Drive and Hildebrand Street, followed at noon by a march to City-County Plaza.

That evening at 6 p.m. a Candlelight Service at Central United Methodist Church’s Fellowship Hall will honor area citizens who have dedicated themselves to the cause of social justice. The association also honors area youth with a Youth Celebration and Awards in the spring, and commemorates Juneteenth each summer.

Schedule of Events

Saturday, January 19 at 8:30 a.m.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast at Crowne Plaza Resort. Tickets $25, $35, $15 (children 12 and under).

Monday, January 21 at 11:30 a.m.
Peace March and Rally beginning at St. James AME Church at Martin Luther King Drive and Hildebrand Street, followed at noon by a march to City-County Plaza.

Monday, January 21 at 6 p.m.
Candlelight Service at Central United Methodist Church’s Fellowship Hall.

For more information about the 2019 Prayer Breakfast, contact Darryl Rhymes, Chair of the Prayer Breakfast Committee, at mlkjrassociationinasheville@gmail.com. For more information about the MLK Association, or to purchase tickets to the Prayer Breakfast (subject to availability), please visit www.MLKAsheville.org.

 

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