Interview with Craig Rains
QUESTION 11
INTERVIEWER:

AT THIS POINT ON CAMERA ROLL ON 118, WE'RE 200 FEET IN. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE CHILI INCIDENT WITH MINNIE JEAN BROWN? WHAT HAPPENED, AND HOW THAT MADE YOU FEEL.

Craig Rains:

I remember lunch was a particularly interesting time at this time, because I —I had the same lunch period as — as the blacks did. We had split lunch. There were a group of — of boys, I don't know how to describe them, but they — they would taunt the black students. And they had to very subtle about it, because there were troops. The 101st was standing maybe twenty feet away, at the door to the cafeteria. And — but the taunts could be heard by the black students. And Minnie Jean had been getting more than her fair share of taunts, because she would— she would talk back. The other –the other black students kept to themselves, and as the Bible says, they would turn the other check. Minnie Jean would snap back at people and so — she immediately that caused her to become a target. These boys had been taunting her at lunch that day, and she very discreetly got up, and as she walked by them, with her bowl of chili, she just proceeded to put it — dump it on top of this fellow's head. And there were — a lot of people started cheering and laughing, but immediately the troops came over, and the guy jumped up, the troops came over to make sure nothing to happen, and got her out. We thought it was kind of funny at our table. It was — as long as the guy didn't get burned, but the chili wasn't that hot apparently, but — but we had seen her do some things that we did not think were — were good for the situation that was going on. Of course, obviously, in retrospect, after they had taken her off, we sat there and talked about it, and then felt like that that was a damaging, particular incident in terms of trying to make – make the integration go smoothly, that she had finally caved in to the point that she did something that was going to be harmful to the overall process. I had — I sat at lunch every day with the same people, and I noticed that there were some times that Ernest Green would come in and sit by himself. The other — other students might have been – other black students might have been elsewhere. So one day I asked Ernest it he'd come join us, for lunch. And he got his tray, and came over and sat down with us. And then I realized it was very awkward to talk with him. Because I began to realize that I didn't have anything in common with him, other than we were in the same school. I couldn't talk about things that you do after – after school, 'cause I didn't know whether the black kids did the same things we did, after school, I mean, that's — that's how segregated we were. I didn't know whether we had any commonality of interests. But, I still wanted him to know there were people there, that cared, and nobody — everybody at our table was glad to have him there. And he sat with us, off and on, most of the time then for the rest of the school year. And we eventually were able to find things in common that we could talk about.