Video: “My Father Said Yes: A White Pastor in Little Rock School Integration”

Watch video of Dunbar Ogden, author of the 2008 book My Father Said Yes: A White Pastor in Little Rock School Integration, delivering Vanderbilt’s annual Walter Murray Commemorative Lecture Oct. 6.

In his book, Ogden chronicles the previously untold story of his father, the Rev. Dunbar Ogden, a white Presbyterian pastor who became the pro-integration leader in Little Rock’s white community.

In September 1957, it was Ogden who led the African American high school students who became known as the “Little Rock Nine” up to the lines of National Guard barring access to Central High School where the students wished to enroll. The National Guard had been called by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, an opponent of desegregation.

Ogden became involved after responding to a call for support from Daisy Bates, co-owner of Little Rock’s black newspaper. Ogden and Bates faced opposition from the community and from the outside. Ogden would eventually lose his church and Bates lost her newspaper.

The book is also a father-son story in which Ogden writes about the depression his father battled for most of his life.

Ogden is a professor emeritus of dramatic art at the University of California, Berkeley, and has also written several scholarly books on actors, stage space and set design. He has taught at Berkeley since the early 1960s.

Since 2000 he has taught a freshman seminar at Berkeley based on the events in My Father Said Yes. During the seminar each student selects a character in the story such as one of the Little Rock Nine, Daisy Bates or Governor Faubus and composes an original 20-minute monologue as that character in order to create a personal experience with history.

Vanderbilt’s Walter Murray Commemorative Lecture is named for the Rev. Walter R. Murray Jr., a Nashville native and Vanderbilt alumnus who was a founder of the Association of Vanderbilt Black Alumni and the Afro-American Student Association. A residence hall at The Commons, Vanderbilt’s first-year student community, also bears his name.

Media Contact: Princine Lewis, (615) 322-NEWS

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