Elizabeth Eckford made history at age 15. Here’s the full story behind the iconic photo.

Elizabeth Eckford made history at age 15. Here’s the full story behind the iconic photo.

By Annie Reneau 02.05.22

On September 4, 1957, nine students arrived at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas for their first day of school. They were bright students, chosen for their academic excellence to attend the most prestigious school in the state. They were there to learn—and to make history as the first Black students to attend the previously all-white school.

They wouldn’t enter the school that day, nor for weeks after. Their entrance was barred not only by an angry white mob but by the Arkansas National Guard who were called in by the governor to prevent the students from integrating the school.

Eight of the nine arrived together that first day in a carpool arranged by the local NAACP chapter. One student, 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford, didn’t have a telephone at home and was unable to be reached to learn about the carpool plan. She took the city bus, which dropped her off within two blocks of the school. As she approached, she faced the racist crowd alone.

One photo encapsulated much—but not all—of the moment. We see Eckford being followed by a group of angry white segregationists, but we can’t see that they were yelling, “Lynch her! Lynch her!” We can see the Arkansas National Guard, but we can’t see that President Eisenhower would have to call in federal troops weeks later to finally get the students into the building. We see Elizabeth Eckford walking with her head high, but we can’t see the courage and resolve it took her not to walk through a crowd of people threatening to kill her just for wanting to go to school.

We see a snapshot of a horrific moment in American history, but we can’t see what happened after

This article appears in its entirety at the UpWorthy website.

It can be read here.

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