Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Little Rock Nine

Fifty years ago this month Elizabeth Eckford made a long and lonely walk in front of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. She was part of the "Little Rock Nine," a group of African-American high school students designated to integrate the all-white Central High. On that first day of school in 1957 there was miscommunication, and Elizabeth was separated from the group of other black students. She had to walk alone, surrounded by a mob of white people who screamed racial epithets at her.
Elizabeth was surrounded by a maelstrom when she was just a young girl wanting to attend school. That day, Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas had defied court order, by calling in the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the black students from entering the school. The Governor said desegregation would cause violence and unrest. Some days later, President Eisenhower ordered the 101 U.S. Airborne Division to escort the African-American students to school, and for several weeks the students had to be protected daily by armed soldiers.

I remember first seeing Elizabeth's story in the documentary "Eyes on the Prize." It was quite riveting. Elizabeth still lives in Little Rock today. She says she realizes now that she suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome for many years after this incident.
1957 and 1997. The Little Rock Nine were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Clinton in 1997.

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