When this young park ranger leads tours of historic Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, the stories that she tells of the segregated South are personal to her: Spirit Trickey's own mother was one of the "Little Rock Nine" who fought to attend the all-white school in 1957.
Daughter of Little Rock Nine Tells Her Mother's Civil Rights Story
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor:
Since we usually feature people who are making a difference here on Friday nights, tonight we'll conclude our week long look at members of the list of 100 current history makers as compiled by our partner Web site thegrio.com, as we mark Black History Month. Tonight a park ranger whose posted at a place that not only changed this country but holds a special place in her own family history. Her story tonight from NBC's Mara Schiavocampo.
MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO reporting:
On any given day in Little Rock, Arkansas...
Ms. SPIRIT TRICKEY: She was alone in the mob...
SCHIAVOCAMPO: Spirit Trickey could be very well be the park ranger who leads the tour of this historic site.
Ms. S. TRICKEY: The Arkansas National Guardsmen lined up and down this block.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: In great detail she tells the story of nine black teenagers who desegregated Central High School.
Ms. S. TRICKEY: About 15 soldiers close in and surround them like a shield, and they marched down that sidewalk and up these stairs.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: Ask her a question, and if she doesn't already know the answer, there is one more person she can ask.
Where is your mom?
Her mother. Minnijean Brown Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine. They moved back to Little Rock together eight years ago after a lifetime away from the deeply segregated south of 1957. Raised in rural Canada, Spirit, one of five children, was almost 16 before she began to understand her mother's role in history.
Ms. MINNIJEAN BROWN TRICKEY: I didn't really want them to know that the world was that ugly.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: Now Spirit is the keeper of family history, helping her mother heal from an era filled with racial hatred.
Ms. S. TRICKEY: Think about at home where they had no soldiers.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: Reminding her mother of the girl she was.
Ms. S. TRICKEY: She just came out and said this once. She said, `It was like clutching a chainlink fence, looking...'
Unidentified Woman: ...looking at a world I was not allowed to participate in. I wanted a chance to see what I was missing.
Ms. S. TRICKEY: Spirit wrote a play called "One Night," told through the eyes of the bubbly 15-year-old Minnijean.
Ms. M. TRICKEY: Between the play itself, the dialogue and the actor, I got it. Wow, I know why they hated me, because I was just so irrepressible.
For More On The Grio's 100 thegrio.com
SCHIAVOCAMPO: The play won a local competition and toured throughout the state.
Ms. CRYSTAL MERCER (Park Ranger): She's very committed to like reaching young people and like planting those seeds at an early age.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: Spirit is finishing a graduate degree in public service, but she knows no better lesson than Little Rock.
Ms. S. TRICKEY: It's not just my history. It's not just black and white history. It's all of our history.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: One story, one job that may never leave her.
Ms. S. TRICKEY: Do you want to be that brave white kid who did something so simple as move your desk over and share your book?
SCHIAVOCAMPO: And honored to keep its lessons alive. Mara Schiavocampo, NBC News, Little Rock, Arkansas.
In a key event of the American civil rights movement, nine black students enrolled at formerly all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in September 1957, testing a landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional.