Date of this Version
"The dead can be buried, but the past can't." Quoting an un-known writer, Elizabeth Eckford stood at the podium in Whittenberger Auditorium on the Bloomington campus of Indiana University and began to tell her story. On this brisk October night of 1999, several hundred people--black, white, Asian, and Latino students, faculty, administrators, local citizens, journalists and television cameramen--came to hear Eckford, now in her fifties, describe what it was like for her to approach Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, over forty years ago. As one of nine black students who bore the brunt of integrating the all-white school during the 1957-1958 academic year, she had come to the school alone on 4 September and was turned away by the Arkansas National Guard, who had been ordered by Governor Orval Faubus to prevent the black students from entering Central High. A crowd of hostile whites, mixed with news reporters and photographers from around the nation, followed her to a bus stop where she sat down on a bench and stoically waited for a bus to arrive while racial epithets were hurled at her. Still shaken by her experience forty-two years later, Eckford tried to stress to the listeners in the auditorium the importance of that moment and the dogged resilience of the Little Rock Nine in wanting to continue the experiment in school desegregation.
Date Posted: 21 December 2006