On Sept. 25, 1957, nine African-American high school students faced an angry mob of white students outside Little Rock Central High School, testing a landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional. The Little Rock Nine became a symbol of heroism in the fight for racial progress. The students were: Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed and Melba Pattillo Beals.
In the 1954 ruling, the court called for all public schools in the U.S. to be integrated “with all deliberate speed” in its decision related to the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. On September 4, 1957, the first day of classes at Central High, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called in the state National Guard to block the black students’ entry into the school. Twenty one days later, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent in federal troops to escort the “Little Rock Nine”, and they started their first full day of classes on September 25.
One of the Little Rock Nine, Elizabeth Eckford, went on to attend Central State College (now Central State University), a historically black college in Wilberforce, Ohio, where she earned a degree in history.
The Little Rock Nine have been honored through the years, appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1996, being presented with a Congressional Gold Medal by President Bill Clinton in 1999 and being invited to the inauguration of President Barack Obama in December 2008.
Below is a video about Elizabeth Eckford.