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The Ernest Green Story [Movie]

The Ernest Green Story is a made-for-television movie that premiered on cable TV’s Disney Channel in 1993. It tells the true story of Ernest Gideon Green (1941–), who was one of a group of African-American students (dubbed the Little Rock Nine) who were the first black students to attend Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The movie details the violence and victories of Green’s senior year in 1957–58. In May 1958, Green became the first black student to graduate from Central. The promotional poster for the film read: “1958. Because of his courage, Central High School will never be the same.”

The film runs for 101 minutes and was developed by executive producer Carol Ann Abrams. Much of the movie was filmed on location at Central High School. It was directed by Eric Laneuville, winner of a 1992 Directors Guild of America award. The writer was Lawrence Roman. During the filming, Ernest Green visited the Little Rock location for about a week and had the opportunity to interact with the screenwriter as well as Morris Chestnut, the actor portraying Green. The movie was narrated by Green.

Chestnut was acclaimed for his breakthrough role in the 1991 film Boyz N the Hood. He also starred on TV’s Nurse Jackie, in “V”, and in the title role on Rosewood. Notable co-stars include Avery Brooks in the role of Reverend Lawson. Brooks played the lead on television’s Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from 1993 to 1999 as well as being a regular on Spenser: For Hire. Green’s grandfather E. S. Scott was played by Ossie Davis, a four-time Emmy nominee and recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors award in 2004. Fellow Kennedy Center honoree (and Academy Award nominee and Emmy winner) Ruby Dee played Lydia Wilson. Tony-winning Broadway actor Brian Stokes Mitchell portrayed Thurgood Marshall, and Emmy-nominated C. C. H. Pounder (Sons of Anarchy and NCIS: New Orleans) played Daisy Bates. Actors with a local connection include Brandon Eells—son of Paul Eells, longtime sports commentator and voice of the Arkansas Razorbacks—in the role of Physics Student.

The Ernest Green Story had an advance screening at Little Rock Central High School. The presentation was introduced by President-elect Bill Clinton, who accompanied Green and his family to the screening. The movie premiered on the Disney Channel on January 17, 1993. That year, it was honored with the prestigious Peabody Award for presenting “a story which reminds adults and teaches children about the courageous steps taken toward the elimination of discrimination in American society.” In 2015, the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site recognized the centennial of the National Park Service with a special screening of The Ernest Green Story.

When Green was asked his opinion of the film in an interview, he said, “I was generally pleased with the movie. It had, as you can imagine, about an hour and a half to tell a set of events that took nine months. But I thought they captured the high points and the low points of my senior year.”

For additional information:
The Ernest Green Story.” Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106826/ (accessed August 23, 2016).

“‘The Ernest Green Story’ Tells How Black Students Integrated Little Rock School amid Violence.” Jet (January 25, 1993): 13, 65.

“Tough Decisions Are the Ones Worth Fighting For.” SBMS Teen Press. http://www.sbmsteenpress.org/TP-yeswecan/5-lr9-green.html (accessed August 23, 2016).

Nancy Hendricks
Garland County Historical Society

Last Updated 8/26/2016

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