Integration figure featured at Cal State San Marcos

"Little Rock Nine" students faced angry mobs

SAN MARCOS, Calif. - Terrence Roberts has earned a master's and a doctorate degree, but in 1957, it took an order from the Supreme Court and the Army for him to go to high school.

Roberts and eight others were the first African-American students to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

"You know when you're 15, you have the advantage of being 15 and that air of invincibility," Roberts said. "It's later on when you're home that you tremble."

Roberts was invited by Cal State University San Marcos to speak about his experiences.

The "Little Rock Nine," as they had come to be known, faced angry mobs in the streets in front of the school. Roberts would not have a senior year. The governor at the time was so incensed he closed the school. Roberts moved to Los Angeles and graduated in 1959.

He would go on to Cal State Los Angeles and would earn a master's degree from UCLA and a doctorate from Southern Illinois University.

Roberts said while in Los Angeles the racism was not as overt as it was in the South, it was still there. It was one of the lessons he was to share in front of a packed auditorium at Cal State San Marcos.

To honor the nine and the barriers it broke, Central High School has been turned into a national park.

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