Earnest Gideon Green was the oldest of the Little Rock Nine, a group of nine black students who became the first to attend Little Rock's all-white Central High School in 1957. Green graduated one year later, an event considered significant in the African-American civil rights movement. In 1999, Green and the other group members received the Congressional Gold Medal from President Bill Clinton.
With the help of a donor, Green enrolled at Michigan State University, where he was active in the civil rights movement and became a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. Green graduated from the East Lansing school with a bachelor of arts degree in 1962, and he obtained a master's degree in 1964.
In 1965, Green became involved in employment law at the Adolph Institute, working to aid minority women in career development. Green then directed the A. Phillip Randolph Education Fund from 1968 to 1976 and served in the Labor Department under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981.
As of 2014, he has been a member of the Lehman Brothers consulting firm since 1985. Green has also served on the boards of several foundations, including AfriCare, the African Development Foundation and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. Green is the recipient of numerous honors for his charitable work and donations.