Elizabeth Eckford

Via a public post at A Mighty Girl on Facebook:

Elizabeth Eckford, September 4, 1957


On this day in 1957, 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford encountered an angry mob when she attempted to enter Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Eckford was one of nine teenagers, known as the Little Rock Nine, who became the first African American students to attend the previously all-white Little Rock Central High School after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled school segregation unconstitutional in its famous Brown v. Board of Education decision.

While the nine students had planned to enter the school together, the meeting place was changed the night before and Eckford, whose family did not have a telephone, did not learn about the change of plans. As a result, she attempted to enter the school alone through a mob of 400 angry segregationists and a blockage by the Arkansas National Guard, which the pro-segregationist governor, Orval Faubus, had ordered to block the students in violation of the Supreme Court decision.

Due to the line of soldiers blockading the school and threats from the crowd, Eckford was forced to flee to a bus stop. As she sat at the bus stop crying, New York Times reporter Benjamin Fine consoled the scared girl, telling her “don’t let them see you cry.” Civil rights activist Grace Lorch, who had learned that Eckford had arrived separately from the other students, then arrived to escort her home.

Read the whole thing if you can (I know some of you hate Facebook and avoid it).


  1. says

    That’s so much history for a 15 year-old to carry. I hope everyone who was on the other side of that encounter realizes that the shame of their actions will outlast anything else they accomplished with their lives.

    I decided to read a bit more on wikipedia about her later life. Ouch. I wish the United States did a better job of living up to the fine words it occasionally produces.

  2. says

    Well one of the people in the picture later apologized to her. People do change. These were teenagers. (The people on the fringes were adults, but in this picture the mob is her fellow students.)

    That picture itself is such a stinging rebuke. Which of those people would you rather be? Which of them do you cringe to be identified with?

  3. quixote says

    Inspiring stoicism in her bearing compared to the screaming meemies around her.

    Imagine if that had been when the country realized the error of its ways, instead of moving about an inch on a road a mile long. And that inch, as far as I can see, consisting mainly of reserving the screaming for the internet and making it anonymous.

  4. karmacat says

    I read the governor at the time closed the High schools for a year to avoid integration. It is remarkable the extents people will go to maintain the status quo. It reminds me of the GOP. they would rather shut down government than make any compromises. I suspect for a few them it is related to Obama being black

  5. Omar Puhleez says

    It’s one of those still photos with interesting detail of facial expression in it.
    The woman to the left rear of Elizabeth Eckford is giving her the serious death stare. The brunette woman behind her (Hazel Bryan – see link below) is yelling while focused on her, but her yell could be arising out of frustration with the reality as much as raw anger of her own. The blond woman with both arms full of books and class notes to Eckford’s right I would say is about half way between passive bystander and being in the Bryan screamer class. The man in the helmet three people away from Eckford certainly does not look happy, but the other man in a helmet looks a bit bemused, and could be black himself; though I don’t think it likely in the Little Rock of the day.
    But strangely, the rest appear fairly passive, as if just waiting for a bus to arrive.

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