Having to be escorted to high school by the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army to protect your life. To get the public education you have a right to. In the United States. Because you are black. Enduring threats, insults and attacks for an entire year at the hands of your new classmates. And their parents. Having your high school shut down just so you would not be in it.
When Jefferson Thomas and his family made the decision that he would be a part of the Little Rock Nine, (a group of nine black boys and girls who would integrate Little Rock, Arkansas’s Central High School) some of the very people who he played ball with as friends would become adversaries.
Thomas would recall in later years, “One of them said, ‘Well I don’t mind playing basketball or football with you or anything. You guys are good at sports. Everybody knows that, but you’re just not smart enough to sit next to me in the classroom,'”
President Bill Clinton released a statement calling him, “a true hero, a fine public servant, and profoundly good man.”
Jefferson Thomas died Sunday in Columbus Ohio of pancreatic cancer at age 67.