Opinion: The Shoulders We Stand On


Arkansas National Guard soldiers barred the Little Rock Nine from entering Central High School on September 4, 1957. Photo: picryl.com. Public Domain

by Dr. Shirley Jackson Whitaker and Anika Lopes

Dr. Shirley Jackson Whitaker
Anika Lopes

As descendants of African American enslaved people we are deeply disheartened that the use of “Amherst 9” has been coined to identify a diverse group of nine Amherst youth involved in a police incident on July 5.

We have no issue with people who stand up for their rights or the rights of others they feel have been violated. We encourage and support the right to do so. 

Our concern is with individuals giving the impression that what occurred on July 5 in Amherst is equivalent to the mistreatment and torture suffered by the African Americans of the “Scottsboro 9” and “Little Rock 9”.

 It is profoundly disrespectful for anyone to use this association so loosely. It’s traumatic to witness these civil rights pioneers’ mistreatment made light of by a sensationalized comparison. It’s harmful and offensive to watch a misrepresentation of history that appropriates their pain for gain. 

Because there is a strong need for education and understanding, we include some information and pictures with sincere hope that this will emphasize the hardship experienced by the Scottsboro and Little Rock 9, and generate the respect they justly deserve. 

With acknowledgment of where we stand and how far we have to go.

Shirley Jackson Whitaker is a physician, artist, and community activist who lives in Amherst. She is founder of the Shirley Whitaker Foundation 

Anika Lopes is an Amherst Town Councilor representing District 4 and founder of Ancestral Bridges.

More Information

The Scottsboro Boys

The Littlerock Nine

Eight of the nine Scottsboro Boys, Ozie Powell, Olen Montgomery, William Roberson, Charles Weems, Clarence Norris, Haywood Patterson, Andrew Wright and, Eugene Williams, falsely accused of raping two white women, with NAACP representatives Juanita Jackson Mitchell, Laura Kellum, and Dr. Ernest W. Taggart, full-length Portrait inside Prison, Alabama. Photo: Britton & Patterson, 1936/Smithsonian/Wilkimedia Commons
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1 thought on “Opinion: The Shoulders We Stand On

  1. I am curious why Councilor Lopes and Dr. Whitaker would not rebuke the germane topic of police misconduct raised by #Amherst9. Their statement released to the press demonstrates an obvious disconnect and lack of compassion for the Black and Brown youth and their families missing an opportunity to speak to the over-policing and criminalizing of these youths. Perhaps if they didn’t have an Amherst police officer on their board, or worried about a future election, they would be more sympathetic to the history that ties us all.


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