By Staff Sgt. JESSICA CONDIT
19th Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
Minnijean Brown-Trickey, an Arkansas resident, is mostly recognized for her teenage years as one of the well-known Little Rock Nine.
In her adult life, Brown-Trickey is still an activist for minority rights, and her daughter, Spirit Trickey, carries the baton for the next generation.
For 10 years Trickey worked at the Central High School Historic Site, which is across the street from the place where her mom and eight other students fought for racial equality.
Though very proud now and devoted to the same causes as her mom, it wasn’t until her adolescent years that Trickey realized just how big the Little Rock Nine’s influence was and still is on the world.
“I really didn’t know about her history until eighth grade,” she said. “I had no clue what my mother went through until I saw a Disney movie about it. It really sank in when my mom was invited to the Oprah show when I was 16.”
Trickey said her mom didn’t speak about that part of her life because it was so painful. She said it was a common thread with the other members of the Nine, also. Children of the other members said they didn’t know as well.
“Once the nation acknowledged what the Little Rock Nine did, my mother said she felt it was to okay to begin talking about it,” said Trickey. “And she did.”
After finding out that her mother was one of the Little Rock Nine, Trickey became interested with the group of students who broke the trend of segregation at Central High and focused her attention on conveying the importance of the group and the outcome of their perseverance.
Working at the museum across the street from Central High School, Trickey said she felt a sense of pride retelling the history of her mother and the other eight African-Americans who attended school there in 1957.
She recalled how working there helped her to realize how the people involved in the Little Rock Nine shaped the identity and views of the world today and felt it was the most powerful 10 years of her life.
“Every day I went to work feeling like I was a part of history,” said Trickey. “I felt like the baton was passed on to me. The people visiting made it sink in for me that what happened had a global impact.”
Trickey said listening to Nelson Mandela speak about the Little Rock Nine and hearing other countries like Sri Lanka speak about it helped her to understand just how much of an impact her mother and the others had on the world.
The impact her mother had on the world was no match, however, to the influence she had on Trickey.
Trickey said her mother made sure that her children were never without the things they needed. From clothing to education, she gave them the best she could.
“She models social responsibilities for her children and is an advocator of social justice,” said Trickey of her mother. “Everything she could not do, she made sure we could do.”
Trickey said she loves listening to her mother speak, whether at large meetings or just at home with her children.
“She would always tell (her children), ‘We were just ordinary people, not celebrities,” said Trickey. “You have the power to create change and pave your own way.’”
Trickey delivers that same message today to students she comes in contact with.
“You have it in you,” she said. “Don’t think you can’t do what (the Little Rock Nine) did. Rise to the occasion. An opportunity presented itself to my mother and the others. They rose to the occasion, and did it with the utmost dignity and grace.”
Working across from Central High for many years, Trickey has embraced the sentiment of what happened. She encourages people to be more conscious of the general knowledge of the school and dive deeper than just the surface of Central High’s history.
“The story is so deep and lessons are abundant,” said Trickey. “I wish people would have a greater appreciation of the event, especially the students in the school. It is a really powerful story.”
While Trickey no longer lives in Little Rock, she does not forget where she came from or the history of her family.
“I hope to pass the story on to my daughter one day,” said Trickey. “My mother had a strength that was not in an ordinary form. It was more of a streak of resistance.”
Trickey expressed the confidence her mother had to go to school and the sense of worth and self-love they needed to be strong enough to make it through that time in their lives.
“The story of the Little Rock Nine belongs to all of us,” said Trickey. “It’s not just black history but American history and world history.”
The courage and spirit of Minnijean Brown-Trickey and the Little Rock Nine has been passed down to the next generation and generations to come to make a difference for the world today, not just in civil rights, but the rights of all human kind.
For more information about Central High School or the Little Rock Nine, visit the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov.