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"Speaking The Whole Truth." Terrence Roberts Of Little Rock 9 Previews His MLK Day Address At EMU

Jan 16, 2020

Dr Terrece Roberts.
Credit EMU

Over 60 years ago, Dr. Terrence James Roberts was a 15-year-old high school student in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he became part of what was eventually known as "The Little Rock Nine."

A group of 9 African-American students were the first black students ever to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School.

He spoke with WEMU's Lisa Barry about the experience over 60 years later and previewed his keynote address taking place Monday, January 20th at Eastern Michigan University.


Terrence Roberts says he can still remember what it was like to be a 15-year-old high school student chosen to attend a formerly segregated, large public high school in Little Rock, Arkansas over 60 years ago.

He says, fundamentally, things have not changed since then, which was 1957.  He says there have been some "surface, cosmetic changes," but added, “underlying problems for African Americans remain unaddressed."  He points to historic accounts of slavery and believes the truth about that is not accurately shared.

Dr. Roberts says the solution lies in "dialogue at every level" and says the tone should be set by the White House.

He says we need to teach young people about the truth adding textbooks in different parts of the country offer different historical views of slavery and says, "The truth is unspoken."

Roberts will be the keynote speaker at Eastern Michigan University's MLK Day celebration Monday, January 20th.  He shared the title of that speech, "Speaking the Whole Truth."

Roberts says he will talk mostly about Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior during his address adding, "King's message was for everyone, no matter their race."

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu