Today, in 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sends 1,000 U. S. government paratroopers to Little Rock, Ark., to desegregate schools, escorting nine Black young people to Central High School. This was the first federally supported effort to integrate America’s public schools.
September 24th had been weeks into school starting, and there have been several attempts by the black students to enter the school. Here is an excerpt from the book The Race Beat, by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff, that highlights one of the attempts. In this part of the story one of the young black girls arrives at the school before the other eight students:
For a second time, Eckford was turned away. Stuck and unable to leave the scene until the next bus arrived, she sat on a bench at the bus stop, her head tilted downward. For minutes that seemed eternal, she absorbed the jeers, epithets, and threats of an angry crowd that seemed to be bouncing out of control all around her. Eckford sat alone, motionless, her arms folded over her lap.
Fine saw tears streaming down her cheeks behind her glasses...
A white woman, Grace Lorch, whose husband was a teacher at a local Negro college, joined Fine and Eckford. "What are you doing, you nigger lover?" one protester yelled at Lorch. "You stay away from that girl."
"She's scared," the white woman replied. "She's just a little girl." Then she walked away with Eckford in search of a taxi. "Six months from now," she told another member of the mob, "you'll be ashamed at what you are doing." She and Eckford made their way to a public bus and left together.
That scene showed the bravery of these nine young black students and how they took the heat for black students today to be able to attend the same schools as their white peers.
Keeping Up would like to say we thank you for your bravery and helping us "Keep Up"!