He Tells the Truth He Knows
"It’s perhaps too easy, in this day and age of omnipresent brain candy, to pass by a title like this one; it looks like work. The cover reminds that its author, Terrence Roberts, is one of the Little Rock Nine, nine courageous African-American students who volunteered to be the first to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957 under the limited (in the sense that Army personnel did not enter the gym or the classroom) protection of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, and who endured a year of daily hostility and abuse. Roberts went on to become a psychologist, educator, and speaker.
The title, like Roberts’ essays, states things directly. Its seriousness notwithstanding, Roberts’ writing is the kind of writing that goes down easy; which introduces a curious, confident, and compassionate intelligence; and which enlivens the mind and spirit with the possibility of courage and clear sight. In this collection of twenty-nine short essays and speeches, Roberts covers a variety of topics: racism and other divisions; the importance of building community and relationships; cross-cultural issues; public figures, including letters to Senator and President-elect Barack Obama ; the history of his experience at Central High School; and above all, the value of education and keeping one’s mind open to learning and possibility.
The topics themselves are interconnected, but they are further tied together here by Roberts’ voice and world view. Roberts sets a conversational tone—indeed, he chafes a bit in the preface at the limitations that a book’s format imposes on his true goal: building a thinking relationship with the reader—and his voice is clear, composed, and in his words, 'dripping sweet reason' into the various social wounds and misapprehensions from which we suffer. He is not afraid to bust open a myth or two—the social constructs of race and race prejudice and our national mythological narrative of meritocracy chief among them—and he does so in a way that invites reading and reflection. . . .
Self-described as 'alternately dismayed and delighted' with the state of things, he communicates both feelings clearly. There is no doubt that the US continues to avoid looking the dynamics of oppression in the eye: 'The elite among us seem to enjoy playing giant games of let’s you and him fight; and many at the lower ends of the socioeconomic ladder lack the sophistication to even know they are pawns in the game.' At the same time, over and over he sends a message of hope and possibility—and determination. Keep learning. Commit yourself to helping others learn, to creating a world in which unnatural and unfair obstacles to learning and developing are removed. . . .
This is America’s best thinking, focusing on what is possible, embracing difference ('Difference simply is. There is nothing one need do to make difference palatable,' he says), urging the nation to live up to its ideals, and encountering life and education as an exciting adventure, from a mind forged in the fire of one of its most insidious maladies—racism—and tempered with intelligence, a sure sense of identity, and a confidence that he belongs.
Roberts’ commitment, as an educator, is to 'dispel myth and uphold the truth as [he] know[s] it.' His talent is to make the truth seem nourishing and perfectly reasonable. And so it is."
---Teresa Scollon for Foreword Reviews
Hardback • $24.95 • 978-1-935166-16-0
192 Pages @ 8.5” x 10.5”
Ebook • $12.50 • 978-1-935166-26-9
Terrence James Roberts was one of the Little Rock Nine, a group of African-American students who, in 1957, were the first black students ever to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1999, he and the other people of the Little Rock Nine were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President Bill Clinton. On September 4, 1957, Roberts and eight other African American students (known as the Little Rock Nine) made an unsuccessful attempt to enter Little Rock Central High School. Despite the presence of the National Guard, an angry mob of about 400 surrounded the school.
The National Guard was removed with the protection of the students left to the local police. On September 23, 1957, a mob of about 1000 people surrounded the school as the students attempted to enter. The following day, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent U.S. Army troops to accompany the students to school for protection. The troops were stationed at the school for the entirety of the school year, although they were unable to prevent incidents of violence inside.
As a result of the subsequent closing of Little Rock’s high schools during the 1958-1959 school year, Roberts completed his senior year in Los Angeles, California.
Roberts continued his education at California State University, Los Angeles and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology in 1967. He received his Master’s degree in social welfare from the UCLA School of Social Welfare in 1970, and his Ph.D. in psychology from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, in 1976.
From 1975 to 1977 he was a member of the faculty at Pacific Union College, a private liberal arts college in Napa Valley, California.
From 1977 to 1985 Roberts was Director of Mental Health at St. Helena Hospital and Health Center.
From 1985 to 1993 he was assistant dean in the UCLA School of Social Welfare.
Roberts joined the Antioch University Los Angeles in 1993 and served as core faculty and co-chair of the Master of Arts in Psychology program until 2008. He is currently Principal of the management-consulting firm, Terrence Roberts Consulting.