WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s been 62 years since Elizabeth Eckford, a member of the Little Rock Nine, was famously blocked by the National Guard from getting into Central High School. On Friday, the Guard invited her to Washington to share her story.
Eckford remembers seeing the soldiers, and thinking at first that they were there to protect her from a mob of white people trying to keep her and other black students from attending Central High.
“I didn’t realize the soldiers were there to keep me out until I was turned away,” Eckford said.
Decades later, Eckford wrote about her experiences in a book, titled “The Worst First Day.” Her story inspired military officials to invite Eckford to the nation’s capital to speak with current National Guard troops.
Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Eurydice Stanley helped coordinate Eckford’s visit.
“It was an opportunity to share the experiences Elizabeth had with the Little Rock Nine,” Dr. Stanley said.
Eckford says the guardsmen had their orders back in 1957, but some were kind to her.
“Even after they turned me away, an officer had sent an armed solider in the vicinity to see that no physical harm came to me,” Eckford said.
Decades later, Eckford hopes that her story will encourage younger generations to stand up against discrimination.
“Let people know they can make a difference and be the difference,” Eckford said.