One of the nine black teenagers who were escorted to Central High School in Little Rock by federal troops 60 years ago has written a book about her role in the school’s racial desegregation.
Elizabeth Eckford and co-authors Eurydice Stanley and Grace Stanley reflect on her time at Central in “The Worst First Day: Bullied While Desegregating Central High.” She will speak about the book at two events this weekend in Little Rock, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .
The 150-page book contains verse, photographs, drawings, essays and documents from when Little Rock’s resistance to desegregation put the city in the spotlight.
“It’s a rough style,” said Harding University senior Rachel Gibson of the black and white illustrations she drew for the book. “It is supposed to be kind of edgy and scribbly. It’s not perfect, but that adds to the storytelling of it. It was a messy time.”
The Little Rock School District made arrangements in 1957 to admit some black students to the all-white Central High to comply with the 1954 federal ruling that racially segregated schools were unconstitutional.
Eckford and eight other black students were first blocked from entering the school by an angry white crowd and armed soldiers. President Dwight Eisenhower ordered federal troops to uphold the law and protect the nine students, who began their first full day Sept. 25, 1957. The students completed the school year despite physical and verbal harassment from some students and indifference from some faculty.
“There was a lot of indifference,” Eckford said. “I don’t think people are aware of that. That wouldn’t be tolerated today.”
Eckford said the book is meant to be a teaching tool for students about bullying and leadership.
“My intent is to teach them a few lessons about how powerful their voices can be and that they can support someone who is being harassed” without being in danger, she said. “I also talk about their responsibilities for the kind of community they have.”
Other members of the Little Rock Nine who have written memoirs include Carlotta Walls LaNier and Melba Pattillo Beals.