“Do the Right Thing”: Civil Rights Icon Minnijean Brown Trickey on Little Rock Nine, Ferguson and Resistance

Shortly after the historic, federally court-ordered desegregation of Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, nine African-American students were confronted by the Arkansas National Guard who prevented them from entering the building on the first day of classes in early September, 1957.  Racial tensions soon erupted into riots and President Eisenhower ordered a division of the United States Army to escort the students, now known as the Little Rock Nine, safely into the building on September 25, 1957.

I had the opportunity to speak with Minnijean Brown Trickey, one of the original Little Rock Nine, who is also a Civil Rights icon, who continues her anti-racism and anti-oppression activism well into her seventies.

Now based in Vancouver, Minnijean shares her story about growing up in the segregated south, her thoughts on Ferguson, on doing the right thing, and why she’ll never stop resisting.


Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College. 2014.

Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College. 2014.

Minnijean Brown, the eldest of four children of Willie and Imogene Brown, was born on September 11, 1941, in Little Rock (Pulaski County).  She is the sister of the late Bobby Brown, who was the president of Black United Youth (BUY) in Arkansas in the late 1960s.

Although all of the Nine experienced verbal and physical harassment during the 1957–58 academic year at Central, Trickey was first suspended, and then expelled, for retaliating against the daily torment.  On February 17, 1958, she moved to New York and lived with Drs. Kenneth B. and Mamie Clark, African-American psychologists whose social science research formed the basis for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) argument in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas case, which held that segregation harmed the self-esteem of African-American children. She graduated from New York’s New Lincoln School, a private progressive school in Manhattan, in 1959.

Brown married Roy Trickey, a fisheries biologist, on September 21, 1967; they have six children. She attended Southern Illinois University and majored in journalism. She later moved to Canada with her husband, where she received a BSW in Native Human Services from Laurentian University and an MSW in social work from Carleton University in Ontario, Canada.

Little Rock 9

Minnijean Brown Trickey, right, and others of the Little Rock Nine leave Central High School under troop escort in September, 1957. National Park Service photo.

Trickey is a social activist and has worked on behalf of peacemaking, environmental issues, developing youth leadership, diversity education and training, cross-cultural communication, and gender and social justice advocacy. She served in the Clinton administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Workforce Diversity at the Department of the Interior from 1999 to 2001. She has taught social work at Carleton University in Ottawa Canada and in various community colleges in Canada.

Trickey worked for an interactive traveling trip called Sojourn to the Past, a ten-day interactive history experience through selected U.S. states with 100 high school students learning about the civil rights movement. She was also a guest lecturer at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County). She was the recipient of the Mary Gay Shipley Writing Fellowship, as a part of ASU’s Heritage Studies PhD program. She is also the subject of a documentary, Journey to Little Rock: The Untold Story of Minnijean Brown Trickey.

Trickey is the recipient of numerous awards for her community work for social justice, including the Lifetime Achievement Tribute by the Canadian Race Relations foundation and the International Wolf Award for contributions to racial harmony. Trickey, along with the other Little Rock Nine and Daisy Bates, was awarded the prestigious Spingarn Medal by the NAACP in 1958. In 1999, President Bill Clinton presented the nation’s highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal, to the members of the Little Rock Nine. After living in Little Rock for several years, she returned to Canada in early 2012.

Biography courtesy of The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.

Intro/outro music:  Rainbow” by Emilie Simon.  Remix from the original.

Additional music: “A tua choradeira é meio salário em lenços” by Stealing Orchestra & Rafael Dionísio.  Remix from the original.


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