Thursday, 16 September 2010


My obituary of Jefferson Thomas, the youngest and perhaps best-known of the Little Rock Nine, and one of only three of them to actually graduate from Little Rock's Central High, is in Friday's
Guardian, or you can link to it here.

It's hard to over-estimate the effect television had on my generation, watching coverage of the civil rights movement, and then the Vietnam war, on the news. This was the same television that brought us like the image of Superman, standing above the earth, with an American flag behind him, fighting for 'truth, justice, and the American way'. The contradiction was apparent, even to grade-schoolers like myself. I suppose you can see the same sort of phenomenon in the advent of satellite TV in the eastern block; the CNN theory as to why the Berlin Wall finally fell.

I find myself taken with a strange mix of emotions when I revisit the civil rights movement; watching the original news coverage at the King Center in Atlanta reduced me to tears. I feel a sense of pride in the scope of the accomplishment, shame at the ignorance and continued dismissal of the enormity of the crime segregation was, and immense frustration at the de facto mess the country continues to endure. I admire the spirit of people like Jefferson Thomas, and feel honoured to have remembered his life for a British audience.

(PS: The Guardian's policy on proper nouns continues to baffle me, with constructions like 'the' Central high, or US supreme court. But even they wouldn't call it the Berlin wall...

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