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'I thought they were there for my protection'
September 25, 2012 3:17 PM   Subscribe

Fifty-five years ago this month, nine black students attempted to integrate Little Rock Central High School.

Due to a miscommunication with local organizers in the NAACP, 16-year-old junior Elizabeth Eckford attempted to enter the school alone, without the protection of a group of black and white adults, mostly teachers, ministers and activists, who escorted the other eight students.

Turned away from the school three times by National Guardsmen, Eckford's attempts to attend classes while surrounded by angry white students were captured in a still photograph that came to represent the fight for integration around the world.

In 1963, the young white woman caught on film taunting Eckford called her to apologize. Decades later, Eckford and Hazel Bryan were close friends- until they weren't.

Most links via Unhistorical.
posted by Snarl Furillo (11 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Today, LRCHS is both a National Historical Site and a working school.
posted by box at 3:20 PM on September 25, 2012


On one hand I want to say 'I can't believe that was only 55 years ago'. Segregated schools seem like ancient history. On the other hand I want to say 'read Jonathan Kozol's Shame of the Nation'. Maybe we haven't come that far.
posted by bquarters at 3:46 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


We will always be in the debt of these courageous young people. Eckford's ordeal must have been quite terrifying.
posted by thelonius at 3:51 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the VF article:

"Less than a week into school, Mrs. Huckaby later wrote, Elizabeth came into her office "red-eyed, her handkerchief in a damp ball in her hands." The harassment was so bad that she wanted to go home early. But things only got worse, as the disciplinary files, in the collection of Mrs. Huckaby's papers at the University of Arkansas, reveal. Sometime in October: Elizabeth hit with a shower of sharpened pencils. October 28: Elizabeth shoved in hall. November 20: Elizabeth jostled in gym. November 21: Elizabeth hit with paper clip. December 10: Elizabeth kicked. December 18: Elizabeth punched. January 10: Elizabeth shoved on the stairs. January 14: Elizabeth knocked flat. January 22: Elizabeth spat upon. January 29: Elizabeth attacked with spitballs. January 31: Elizabeth asks grandfather to take her home after girls serenade her with humiliating songs in gym class. February 4: Elizabeth has soda bottle thrown at her. February 14: Elizabeth attacked with rock-filled snowballs. March 7: Elizabeth hit by egg. March 12: Elizabeth hit by tomato. "She said that except for some broken glass thrown at her during lunch, she really had had a wonderful day," Mrs. Huckaby wrote at one point, apparently with a straight face."
posted by vidur at 5:41 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are people alive that remember this well! This didn't happen that long ago..
posted by Captain Chesapeake at 5:42 PM on September 25, 2012


What a lot of hurt in that Arkansas. So much that it boils over from generation to generation.

I don't know how you show/give love to a State, but I can't see any other way to cure it. Can Arkansas be adopted like a rescued dog?
posted by five fresh fish at 5:58 PM on September 25, 2012


So far I've only read the Vanity Fair article, so perhaps this was covered in some of the other links, but in the penultimate paragraph of that piece, Margolick states that, within the walls of LRCHS, the individual classes and even the cafeteria are still racially segregated?!

What the what? Can that possibly be true? If so, how utterly depressing.
posted by trip and a half at 7:25 PM on September 25, 2012


LRCHS is both a magnet school and one that serves its neighborhood. And most of the neighborhood kids are African-American (though an increasing number are Hispanic), and most of the magnet-school kids are not (though quite a few are--LR as a whole is around 40% black). While there is no de jure segregation, I don't doubt (in fact, I am confident) that some de facto segregation remains.

This article from the local alternative weekly speaks to some of the current racial issues in the LRSD.

(I'm not a Little Rock native, though I've been here for almost ten years. There are other Mefi members who may be better equipped to discuss this topic.)
posted by box at 7:47 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't know that Eckford and Bryan had a "falling out", but I'm not surprised. Hazel Bryan's very public "reconciliation and friendship" with Elizabeth Eckford always seemed suspect to me.
posted by Curious Artificer at 8:48 PM on September 25, 2012


> So far I've only read the Vanity Fair article, so perhaps this was covered in some of the other links, but in the penultimate paragraph of that piece, Margolick states that, within the walls of LRCHS, the individual classes and even the cafeteria are still racially segregated?!

I suspect she means de facto segregation, since the other kind would be illegal. The cafeteria is "segregated" because the black students and the white students all associate only with one another. I would guess (but it's only a guess) that the classes end up "segregated" because the racial divide often doubles as a class divide in the Deep South, so the black students might opt for (or find themselves pushed into) a curriculum that's heavily vocational.
posted by savetheclocktower at 10:46 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Occasionally my mother talks about what it was like going to the all-black school and then suddenly going to a school with many races.

It's something that some people have never gotten used to I guess.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 5:28 AM on September 26, 2012


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