On the first day of school, Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, is seen in a photo taken on September 1957, standing with a group of six African American students who are being blocked by a mob of white students. This photo captures Jerry Jones’ involvement in the incident.
The University of Arkansas, where Jones had graduated from, had an all-white Razorbacks football team that he co-captained, and they won the national championship in 1964. Prior to 1964, the school did not admit students from the all-Black Scipio A. Jones High School, as it was not desegregated.
The Washington Post published the image after Jones’ statement last week, where he informed journalists, “You lacked all the previous 70 years of context and all the occurrences that were happening. Nobody present had any clue, honestly, what was going to happen.”
He gained national attention for his conflict with the federal government. The students were instructed by the state National Guard not to go inside the building. Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus commanded the Black students to enter Little Rock’s Central High School five days before the incident at North Little Rock High School. Prior to the first day of school in 1957, The Mother’s League, a group of local white mothers who opposed school desegregation, organized a meeting on “interracial marriages and the diseases that might arise” if Black and white children were allowed to attend school together. Following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, which declared racial segregation of children in public schools as unconstitutional, Little Rock became a focal point for national attention on school desegregation.
Ted Ownby, a history professor at the University of Mississippi, said, “If they didn’t understand the segregation system and the stakes involved, they wouldn’t quickly comprehend the photograph taken that day. None of them had any idea about the important race-related events happening, and nobody knew that something significant was taking place. But I don’t know how a white teenager from Little Rock in 1957 would fully understand.”
At least during this period of his life, Jones’ unreliable narrator is a plea for racial innocence, growing up in Rock Little as a curious “kid,” perpetuated for long by too many white people who are too busy to come to terms with the structural barriers to advancement in American society for African Americans.
In his 1963 collection of essays on race, The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin stated, “The crime is defined by the lack of guilt.” “It is unacceptable for those responsible for destruction to claim innocence.”
In the next decade, all throughout the southern region, these Black students were part of a younger generation who actively participated in civil rights marches and led sit-ins at lunch counters. In Mississippi, a group of white men allegedly tortured, beat, and abducted Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy, likely because they had seen photos of his body from two years prior. These six Black students also faced racial taunts. When Baldwin was 14 years old, he said he felt afraid of both the evil within him and the evil in the world for the first time in his life. Jones, a classmate at Little Rock High School in North Carolina, stared down his Black classmates, and Innocence could not be considered for Baldwin.
Teammates “beat me up,” he said, that was the cost of being present. He recently informed journalists, “I thought I would get in trouble for being here.” The repercussions of defying the coach’s instruction to stay away from the demonstration were his most vivid recollection of those days, even after all these years. Jones was a second-year student attempting to join the varsity football squad while the Black students were concentrated on asserting their equal rights to a high-standard public schooling.
White individuals were exerting dominance over the lives of Black individuals through intimidation and fear, and he appeared to be oddly intrigued by the public display. The well-being of those six Black students or their pursuit of equal education and opportunities to participate in football, just like he had at North Little Rock High School, did not seem to bother him.
The entertainment that was designed to keep Black people in their place was akin to watching a football game or tailgating with friends, but it had barbaric and gruesome endings. Many people, including thousands of white children, often gathered to witness these public spectacles where the victims’ body parts were given out as souvenirs and photographed. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, between 1877 and 1950, more than 4,000 African Americans were killed in racial terror lynchings, with many being tortured.
Jones didn’t witness a lynching at North Little Rock High, but he is complicit in the system that enabled these heinous crimes.
“According to Ownby, Jones had crucial choices to make. Although he was part of the crowd, he was not applauding, and there were many choices he could have made besides. As a casual observer, it was clear that his situation did not suit him.”
NFL referees penalize African American players for celebrating significantly more than Caucasian players. Read now.
Many segregationists in the South believed that the integration of public schools represented a crisis for white youths. For many Southern leaders, the economic system relied on slave labor and there were concerns about states’ rights during Reconstruction and the Civil War. In the 1950s, many Southern whites believed that their fight was to save the souls of white children.
Ownby stated, “There was a significant argument among white Southern cultural leaders that supporting desegregation was a way to gradually undermine the white supremacy system by changing the minds of white kids in schools.”
The Citizens’ Council of America, a white supremacist organization, started publishing the Southern Youth Manual in 1957 to educate Southern children on the principles of white supremacy and assist them in making the appropriate choices regarding desegregation.
As per a note from the editor in the initial part of the series, “The fact remains that Southern children have been taught to disdain their roots and the factors contributing to our racially diverse society for an extended period of time.”
He refuses to take full responsibility for now being one of the most powerful men in professional sports, where African Americans make up 60% of the players. It’s unfortunate that he can’t undo his participation in this protest. He is not innocent now, and he was not innocent then. This is the world that Jones created.
High Central Rock Little integrated that students Black nine the of one Green Ernest: This year, let’s talk about what happened in 1957 instead of talking about Jerry, as recently told by CNN. High Central Rock’s Little integrated that students Black nine the of one Green Ernest: Unless Jones can reflect better on his life and childhood, and how those times shaped him, he sincerely can’t move forward. But during the Jim Crow era, countless other Black children lost their innocence to racism, and the damage done to those Black children at High Rock Little North can never be fully atoned for, regardless of the hiring of a Black head coach or the amount of money.
In 1982, he informed a gathering of African American leaders, “I did support, along with a majority of Caucasian individuals, the segregation of the schools. However, that was incorrect, and it will never happen again.” Following a near-death experience, he gradually started to make amends for his wrongdoings. Prior to being paralyzed after an assassination attempt during his unsuccessful 1972 presidential campaign, Wallace was widely recognized and outspoken as a proponent of racial segregation in America. Jones could gain valuable insights from the late Alabama governor, George Wallace, who famously stood in the doorway of a school in Tuscaloosa in 1963 to prevent two African American students from enrolling at the University of Alabama.
Jones, who is now known as a racist and “curious” individual, tried to minimize the seriousness of the impact his life had on those around him and the world. Instead of showing empathy for the six African American students, he protested alongside many of his white classmates. We are aware that he was 14 years old when he was in a desegregated school, but we have not been told about his views on race at that time.
The movement for school desegregation, which was sparked by the Little Rock Nine students from both Little Rock Central High and Little Rock North High, helped pave the way for equality and ease of access in society. Daisy Bates, a newspaper publisher and advocate for the end of school segregation in Arkansas, played a crucial role in these efforts as one of the prominent activists for the Little Rock Black community. If it weren’t for her and others like her, the NFL would not have made the strides it has made today.
65 years ago, in 1957, the photo of Jones protesting at the urgent time, when it is just as crucial as it is now, remains a painful reminder of the lasting impact of Jim Crow and slavery. It serves as a festering wound that continues to shape the segregated world in which Jones existed.
The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us. It does not merely refer to the past, but also to the present and even the future. History is not something to be simply read, but rather something that one must truly know and understand. In his book “Dark Days,” Baldwin wrote about the history that seems to be unknown or overlooked by many.