Terrence Roberts, PhD
College of Arts and Sciences
Terrence Roberts, PhD
Civil Rights Advocate, Author
Candidate for the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa
Dr. Terrence Roberts has devoted his life to battling oppression, segregation, and discrimination. One of the Little Rock Nine—a group of African-American students who, in 1957, were the first black students ever to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas—he was called early on to stand up and lead as a defender of civil rights.
On September 4, 1957, the governor of Arkansas ordered the National Guard to prevent Dr. Roberts and his eight classmates, who were surrounded by an angry mob, from entering the school. Several weeks later, they again tried to enter the school but found themselves engulfed by a mob. On September 24, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the National Guard to stand down and sent soldiers to accompany the students for the rest of the school year.
From that powerful beginning, Dr. Roberts has continued his quest for racial equity and harmony. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from California State University, Los Angeles, a Master of Social Work from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a PhD in psychology from Southern Illinois University. He has spent his life educating people on tolerance and understanding.
In 1958, he was awarded the prestigious Spingarn Medal by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Years later, in 1999, the United States Congress bestowed upon him the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award. President Bill Clinton presented the medal to him at the White House.
Dr. Roberts is also the recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Drum Major for Justice, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Award, the Robert S. Abbott Memorial Award, and the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award from Southern Illinois University. He is the author of Lessons from Little Rock, a memoir about his life experiences, and Simple, Not Easy: Reflections of Community, Social Responsibility, and Tolerance.
His memoir, Lessons from Little Rock, is a compelling study of institutional racism and includes details from his childhood in the segregated South. It stands as a testament to the personal resolve Dr. Roberts and each member of the Little Rock Nine used to survive their first days at Central High.
Today, he continues to teach others as CEO of Terrence Roberts Consulting, a consultancy firm that helps businesses manage racial and ethnic diversity and develop multicultural awareness. By devoting his life to civil rights, to the pursuit of equality and justice for all, and to establishing a just and truly democratic society, Dr. Terrence Roberts is a living representation of cura personalis.