September 5, 1957 – I was just eleven years old when the evening news came on our black and white television. US paratroopers in Little Rock Arkansas held back an unruly crowd of angry white adults who were trying to prevent nine Black students from attending an all-white high school. Under President Eisenhower’s orders, the military enforced a Supreme Court ruling to desegregate federally regulated public schools.
Back then, this kind of violence was not unusual to see on television for a little kid like me. The networks covered state police wielding dogs, firehoses and night sticks against civil rights demonstrators.
In this same period, Russians were the first to launch a satellite into orbit around the earth. With America’s early lead in rocket science, we always assumed we would be first.
One TV newscaster commented: “This means that men are really going to the moon.”
“Yes,” said the second newscaster. “And here we are, still fighting the Civil War again.”