Thoughts from a civil rights icon, Dr. Fred Gray

Dr. Fred Gray in LittleRockDr. Fred Gray, the civil rights attorney for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the NAACP, and freedom marchers in the Selma to Montgomery March, visited Little Rock Tuesday, courtesy of the Little Rock Racial and Cultural Diversity Commission, to talk about his experiences as a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.

Gray was also the lawyer for Claudette Colvin, the teenager who refused to give up her seat on a bus months before Rosa Parks’ more famous protest which sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Here are some of the highlights from his speech:

Parks Nixon Fred Gray

Dr. Fred Gray, civil rights attorney (right) with Rosa Parks and, E.B .Nixon, president of the Montgomery NAACP.

Arkansas and the Civil Rights Movement
“I don’t need to tell a city like Little Rock about civil rights. You led by example in desegregation in education and about how to effect change in the state and nation.”

Goal in Life
“My goal was to graduate, go back to Alabama, pass the bar exam, and destroy everything segregated that I could find.”

Race in America Today
“People feel that you don’t need to hear about civil rights as much as you used too, we have a black president and that means that all our problems are over…or that since you made some progress, all our problems are over, but the struggle for equal justice continues.”

Economic Equity
“What is it to be able to ride a bus, stay in a motel, or ride in an airplane if you don’t have the money to pay for it, if you don’t have a job?” “We have to do something to change our system in this country, to give hope to the hopeless.” “We have 50 years of litigation on the books…but, the struggle for equal justice continues.”

The Power of One
“Most historians consider the civil rights movement began with the start of the bus boycott, but if Claudette Colvin had not done what she did then, Rosa Parks would not have done what she did in 1955.”

“I tell everybody, not to underestimate the power of one person.”

Gray’s visit to Little Rock was courtesy of the Little Rock Racial and Cultural Diversity Commission. The Commission has the full-time mission of promoting equal opportunity and the full exercise of civil rights for all citizens of the City. It is committed to dismantling racism and reducing prejudice within the City through modeling, education, and policy development and celebration.

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The Institute on Race and Ethnicity at UALR was founded in July 2011. With a vision to make Arkansas the best state in the country for promoting and celebrating racial and ethnic diversity, the Institute conducts research, promotes scholarship and provides programs that address racial inequities. It does so by facilitating open and honest dialogue aimed at empowering communities and informing public policy to achieve more equitable outcomes. For more information, visit or the Institute’s Facebook page at

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