Ernest Green was born in 1941 in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was one of the "The Little Rock Nine," a group of nine students who physically desegregated Central High School in Little Rock in 1957. He was the first black student to graduate from Central High. Green went on to attend Michigan State University, earning a B.A. in 1962 and an M.A. in 1964. After graduating he was an apprentice at the Adolph Institute helping minority women in the South obtain professional careers and training. He served as the Director of the A. Philip Randolph Education Fund from 1968 to 1976. During Jimmy Carter's administration he was the Assistant Secretary of Labor (1977-1981). After this he joined the private sector and has worked for Lehman Brothers since 1985. He is married to Phyllis Green and is the father of three. Green has received several awards including the NAACP Springham Award and the Rockefeller Public Service Award. In addition, he has served, and continues to serve, on several boards, including the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and the African Development Foundation. Green and the other members of the Little Rock Nine were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999 by President Clinton.
In September of 1957, Green with eight others arrived at Central High School. The school system in Little Rock remained segregated despite the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. Nine black students had enrolled despite the protestations of local citizens groups who wanted the school to remain segregated. On September 4 Governor Orval Faubus summoned National Guard soldiers to prevent the black students from entering the school, in defiance of federal law. Green and the other students were met with a mob on the first day of school and were not able to enter. A standoff occurred between the state and the federal government. A court order was issued ordering the National Guard to stand down. Faubus complied but replaced the Guard with the local police force. Hundreds of protestors and police were outside the school on September 23 when the black students were escorted into the school via a side door. Once the protestors in the crowd realized the students were inside a riot threatened to break out and the students were escorted from the school. After these clashes, President Eisenhower deployed the 101st Airborne Division to escort the students to and from school. The Little Rock Nine were able to attend Central High, but were subjected to verbal and physical harassment from many of the students. Green and the other black students remained under federal protection for the remainder of the school year.
Information for this biography was gathered from the following sources: