Elizabeth Eckford (right) attempts to enter Little Rock High School on Sept. 4, 1957, while Hazel Bryan (left) and other segregationists protest. Featured Image
In the fall of 1957, Elizabeth was among the nine black students who had enlisted, then been selected, to enter Little Rock Central High School.
Central was the first high school in a major southern city set to be desegregated since the United States Supreme Court had ruled three years earlier in Brown vs Board of Education that separate and ostensibly equal education was unconstitutional. Inspired both by Thurgood Marshall, who had argued the case of plaintiff Oliver L Brown, and Clarence Darrow, Elizabeth wanted to become a lawyer, and she thought Central would help her realise that dream.
On the television as Elizabeth ate her breakfast, a newsman described large crowds gathering around Central. It was all her mother, Birdie, needed to hear. “Turn that thing off!” she shouted. Should anyone say something nasty at her, she counselled Elizabeth, pretend not to hear them. Or better yet, be nice, and put them to shame.