Elizabeth Eckford

April 20, 2011 in 1950s-1960s

"Eckford Sept. 23, 1957"

Eckford's walk to school surrounded by white protesters

Elizabeth Eckford was one of the members of The Little Rock nine, a group of African American students who became enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Eckford and the other eight were the first African American students to attend school in Little Rock Central High School and the event didn’t come without controversy. This event is one of the most memorable events of integration that came as a result from the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision of 1954. According to Lenda P. Hill, “The U.S. Supreme Court with one historic decision had ruled that racially segregated schools were illegal and unconstitutional (Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas, 1954).” [Hill 456] The ruling was very important and much needed of the civil rights movement, it was starting to bring some equality for African American students, an equality they needed and deserved even if most of the white community didn’t agree with it. Hill goes on to quote the Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Negro Education Charles  H. Thomson who said, “The implementation of the Court’s decision outlawing segregated schools is one of the most important social problems facing the country…… Certainly, it is the most important social and educational problem facing some 50 million of our citizens…”[Hill 456]

The ruling was a positive for the civil rights movement but a problem that many young African American students had to face because of the hostility towards them from whites who didn’t want them in their schools. Elizabeth Eckford and the rest of The Little Rock Nine are a good example of that problem that was raised from the hostility of whites in the south. One can only imagine the fear that Eckford and the rest of the Little Rock Nine had as they approached the school; with many white students and even adults screaming at them and protesting their presents at the school. According to an article in The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, “as Elizabeth slowly approached the entrance to the school, she was surrounded by an angry mob. Scores of adult and young whites were cursing and taunting her….at times the mob uncontrollably surged forward, threatening Elizabeth’s life.” [Journal of Blacks in Higher Education] That was the problem Eckford and other young African Americans faced when they made history for their people in this country; they entered “white schools” and integrated them not only for their education but to also to further the civil rights movement as a whole and to bring about equality for the future.

Many of their young lives were threatened and they were willing to risk it and take the abuse all for the overall cause. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education goes on to say that as Eckford moved further toward the door “the crowd became infuriated…screaming “Lynch her. Lynch her.” The mob was chanting, “No n—er b–ch is going to get in our school. Drag her over to this tree. Let’s take care of that n—er.” [Journal of Blacks in Higher Education] Eckford and the other young African Americans were taking a huge risk in being some of the first African Americans to integrate into “white schools,” their lives could have been at stake, if there wasn’t people there to protect them many might have. There’s a reason why The Little Rock Nine is so well know, one for the courage that the young African American students showed and two for the hostility that so many whites showed towards the students for doing what they had the right to do. The Little Rock Nine will be forever be remembered for their bravery and the stand they took for their people for equality and their help in the civil rights movement. In fact, a bronze sculpture of The Little Rock Nine was unveiled on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol Building.[Journal of Blacks in Higher Education]

"Little Rock Nine Memorial"

Bronze sculptures of the Little Rock Nine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources:

1. Hill, Lenda P. “From Brown to The Journal of Negro Education With Six Degrees of Separation.” < http://www.jstor.org/stable/40034587>

2.Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. “Fifty Years Ago: The Little Rock Nine Integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/25073748>

3.Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. “In Honor of the Little Rock Nine.” <http://www.jstor.org/stable/25073299>

4. The Journal of Dera R. Williams: A Room of My Own. <http://derarwilliams.blogspot.com/2009/10/memory-monday-little-rock-nine.html> Image #1

5. LSC.gov.  <http://www.lsc.gov/press/updates_2007_detail_T158_R11.php> Image #2

1 response to Elizabeth Eckford

  1. I was researching Eckford and found out that where she was standing in the picture you have posted above has a pretty neat story to go along with it. The reason that she was alone in this picture is because the Little Rock Nine were supposed to meet there. However, the meeting place for the Nine had changed the night before and Eckford had no telephone and did not recieve the message and was left getting off the bus alone in the crowd that taunted her.1 I thought you essay was very interesting and found that bit of info to be interesting as well as to why she was alone in the picture.

    1. http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=721

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