CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. – Elizabeth Eckford is a woman who once played a pivotal role in black history.
She was part of the Little Rock Nine, a group of African-American students who were prevented from entering a desegregated high school nearly 70 years ago.
Long before Eckford was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by former President Bill Clinton, she was just a teenager trying to get into class after a controversial landmark federal court order.
“What we saw was desegregation,” Eckford said. “We were never considered or treated as equals.”
Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas was an all-white school until September 4, 1957.
“They mocked me and yelled racial slurs,” Eckford recalled.
Eckford and eight other black students were turned away from the National Guard, deployed to keep the peace amid racial tensions.
“I had seen them break ranks to admit white students, when I approached them they closed ranks to exclude me,” she said.
The protesters were worse as there was a mob scene outside the school.
“I sought adult help, even in that group I saw a woman who seemed to have a friendly face that I turned to her and she spat at me,” Eckford said.
Unfortunately, it didn’t compare to the trauma she would endure at school.
“We were thrown into the lockers every day, you just didn’t know where,” she said.
Eckford, now 81, has learned to balance the trauma that still haunts her 65 years later.
“It’s been a difficult journey for me, but it’s been worth it because it’s a chance to teach,” she said.
Her stop in Coral Springs marks the civil rights activist, doctor, and military veteran’s final public appearance.
Retiring from the streets, she allows her book to tell the stories she can no longer share.
Copyright 2023 by WPLG Local10.com – All rights reserved.
https://www.local10.com/news/local/2023/02/22/woman-who-was-part-of-little-rock-nine-discusses-enduring-racism-as-teenage-student/ Woman who was part of Little Rock Nine opens up about enduring racism as a teenage college student