I Really enjoyed reading this book and following the interesting and inspiring life of its author, Terrence Roberts. The lessons that Roberts presents are for the most part organized chronologically in the book, starting with the Crystal Burger incident and ending with events from his experience a professor at UCLA. Each chapter contains one or more lessons, drawn from his life experiences and commentary, with invaluable information in each.
In chapter 14, “Lessons from the Barbershop and Lawn-Mowing Clients”, Roberts discusses how his childhood business, when he was enrolled at Dunbar, was negatively impacted when it became known that Terrence was a member of the Little Rock Nine. Nearly all of Terrence’s clients were white and he noticed that “as long as [he] presented [himself] as one who would work hard and stay within the bounds of socially prescribed behavior” that he would be able to work as much as he wanted (133). However, as it emerged that Terrence was a member of the Little Rock Nine, and therefore a rebel, he found out that many of his clients, including “one woman in particular, Mrs. Montgomery…could not, in good conscience, hire a black person who harbored thoughts of being equal to her” (134). Then, Roberts provides an intriguing counterexample by speaking about his “Uncle Leady, returning from a stint in the Korean War” (134). When visiting the same white woman, Mrs. Montgomery, “he insisted that he be allowed to enter through the front door,” which was typically reserved for whites only, yet “she had agreed” (134).
I think that the reason Roberts presents this event is to teach us two main lessons about people and about change. I believe the first lesson he teaches has a lot to do with the way he describes talking about his black neighbor who worked at the cafeteria of Central. Roberts implies that the woman does not support the efforts of the Little Rock Nine because it could potentially get her fired from her job. I believe that the lesson to be learned here is that people, despite what they believe, respond most directly to what will affect them in everyday life, and in this case, that would be losing a job. The second lesson Roberts teaches is alluded to several times in his description of the event. The lesson is not to accept the status quo acceptable, but rather challenge authority through the proper channels. In receiving hate mail from white people across the country, he realized that people have convinced themselves that simply because social system was both advantageous to whites and already functioning, it was a “perfectly fin system of racial segregation” (135). I Think Roberts sums up the lesson as a whole when he says “It was not us messing things up – things had been ‘messed up’ for years – we were simply trying to straighten things out” (134).
In chapter 16, “Those Who Would Re-Write History”, Roberts reflects on two articles that were written in the Arkansas Democratic-Gazette, one written by him and...