When Bravery meets Hate: the Tragedy of Alexander Wilson

A clip showing this man being attacked was quite disturbing, that l found myself researching about him the whole day.

The only hurdle was that the clip didn’t have any details about him. Fortunately in the middle of the night, l got a breakthrough.

His name was Lucious Alexander Wilson, a journalist and editor of the Black newspaper Tri-State Defender. And the attack happened in 1957.

On September 23, 1957, nine African American students headed to Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas to be the first Black students.

Due to a hostile crowd of parents who were against Black students attending the same school as their children, the nine students were turned back.

During the incident there were reporters standing across the street planning to cover the story. One of those reporters was L. Alexander Wilson.

He was attacked by an angry white mob who beat and choked him, then threw a brick that struck him on the head.

When the second kick came, Wilson’s slender frame folded forward. His hat fell to the ground and he bent slowly to retrieve it.

Betraying no emotion, he stood up straight again, casually smoothed his suit, and placed his hat back on his head. This only made them angrier.

Wilson remained calm throughout the attack as he made his way to his car, repeatedly picking up his hat and placing it on his head as he tried to avoid the mob.

The images of Wilson being attacked appeared on the front pages of almost all the major newspapers. It was these images that prompted President Eisenhower to send 1000 members of 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock.

On September 24, the nine African American students returned to Central High School and completed their first day at school under the protection of the military and the national guard.

Wilson despite being injured never saw a doctor or took time to rest. Instead he wrote an article the following day stating:

“I decided not to run. If l were to be beaten , l’d take it walking if l could, not running.

“Any newsman worth his salt is dedicated to the proposition that it is his responsibility to report the news factually under favorable and unfavourable conditions. I strive to serve in the category.

“Yes l was abused , a victim of misguided violence, but l am not bitter. If my effort to help bring human dignity in its fullest sense to the oppressed minority, then the welfare of all will be enhanced.

“I believe that justice and fair play for all minorities will eventually triumph in the tension ridden social revolution which has gripped the South.”

In a later interview, Wilson told a reporter that his U.S. Marine training and experience as a war correspondent in Korea calmed him, and he refused to run from the mob.

Unfortunately, Wilson died three years after the incident at the age of 50. His wife Emogene Wilson said the blow to her husband’s head caused symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Full Credit to the work of Odhiambo Levin Opiyo


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