Hero photograph
Ms Hiku’s year 11 History class with Professor Clarence Lawrence and Minniejean Brown Trickey.  
Photo by Sean Coster

Burnside High Year 11 History students attend African American Civil Rights seminar.

Mr S Coster —

Students meet significant African American Civil Rights icon.

On Friday the 25th of May, 120 year 11 Burnside High School History students were lucky enough to be able to attend a three hour morning talk at the La Vida Centre in Upper Riccarton - alongside 700 other History students from Christchurch schools - regarding the Civil Rights Movement in America in the 1950s. We met and listened to two speakers who came to talk to us all the way from America; Professor Clarence Lawrence from Howard University and Minnijean Brown Trickey, who was one of the Little Rock Nine members.

 For the past term, all Year 11 Burnside History classes had been learning about the African American Civil Rights movements and for the recent few weeks, in particular the ‘Little Rock Nine’ event in 1957 where the first group of black students integrated into the all-white school, Central High, Little Rock Arkansas.

Professor Clarence Lawrence talked to us about the civil rights movement in general relating the majority of his speech to the ‘Black Panthers’ from the comics, movie and the Black Panther movement itself. From this we learnt more about the Civil Rights Movement as a whole and the role it played in the past, present and future of black civil rights in America. Professor Clarence Lawrence focused mainly on the effect the Civil Rights Movement has had on him and the people of America, as well as sharing with us his opinion on what was happening in America at the moment regarding civil rights, prompting an open discussion and debate between the students and himself.

Minnijean Brown Trickey shared her experience of the Little Rock Nine event giving us an insight to her life and experience as an African American growing up in the time of the Civil rights movement and being one of the first to attend an all-white school. Her talk was led by discussion and input from the audience allowing us to ask questions and meet the person whose experience we had been learning about in class, which allowed us to connect what we had been learning on paper and in a classroom to real life. The discussion was lively and overall we as students took away a bigger understanding of the event itself from a more personal perspective as well as learning valuable things such as the truth behind the Chilli story!

Personally I learnt a lot from this experience. I was able to listen and learn from two amazing speakers which helped develop my understanding of the event itself and connect what I learnt to a real person who was involved - and learn more overall about the civil rights movement. I look forward to using my new found knowledge from our speakers at the end of year in my History exam. It was a surreal experience to meet someone you had learnt about in your History class as History is a subject that mainly focuses on the past, and to meet someone who was part of a historical movement in history was something I was very lucky to be a part of and I have taken away a vast amount new found knowledge. On behalf of the year 11 History classes I can say that we have all enjoyed this experience and found it very worthwhile and beneficial to our learning as well as experiencing a once in a lifetime opportunity.

By Harriet Fraser (11SCTH)