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Little Rock Nine Storyteller brings history to life

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PEARCY -- Professional storyteller Linda Gorham used her creativity and spunk to tell Lake Hamilton Middle School students the story of nine brave individuals who led the way to desegregation in Arkansas.

Gorham began her performance about the Little Rock Nine by stressing the importance of remembering the web of stories that ancestors leave behind. She said the stories allow descendants to connect with them.

"These people are not African-American heroes, they are American heroes. I tell stories all year-round and when I tell these historical stories, I'm doing something bigger. I feel as if I can make history human for those who hear me," she said.

The nine black students -- Ernest Green, Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls -- faced angry mobs and troops to help desegregate the all-white Little Rock Central High School in 1957.

For 30 years, Gorham has used her skills as a storyteller to bring folk tales, fables, and histories to life with her one-woman performances. She travels year-round, bringing her performances to schools and special events across the country.

Gorham said she spent a year researching and preparing this particular story. In that year, she read everything she could get her hands on and spoke with anyone she could.

"I did not interview anyone from the Little Rock Nine as many of them do not wish to tell their stories. Those that published books about their experience at Central did so 30 to 45 years after it happened," she said.

"I totally get why they don't want to talk to anyone. Can you imagine everyone in the world wants you to talk about such an emotional and painful experience?"

Gorham takes her performance a step further by including details about what happened to the nine students after they entered the doors of Central High School. She takes on the roles of Daisy Bates, Eckford and a paratrooper from the 101st Airborne who was sent by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to protect Patillo.

According to Brian Bridges, communications coordinator for the Lake Hamilton School District, the seventh-grade students recently discussed the Little Rock Nine during their Language Arts unit on perseverance. Gorham was partially sponsored by the Garland County Library and is speaking at several areas schools.

Gorham will perform her story about the Little Rock Nine at 5:30 p.m. today at the Garland County Library. Preregistration is required.

Local on 02/13/2018

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