Friday, February 8, 2008

Elizabeth Eckford recalls the days of the Little Rock NIne

Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. in 1957, spoke of her experience Thursday night at the Kankakee, Ill. Public Library, according to an article in today's Kankaee Daily Journal:

"Every day we were slammed up against the lockers," said Eckford, recounting the harassment and name-calling she endured as part of a state struggle that would later jump-start a national civil rights movement.

Still, she said, though she spent most of her school day under constant threat -- despite the presence of a personal soldier/bodyguard -- it was during the last class of the day where she said she felt like she "really belonged."

That's because two white students befriended her in the speech class, at great personal risk to themselves and their families.

"Young people, when you see someone being harassed, you might not be strong enough to defend them," said Eckford. "But there's a lot in your power to do."

Because those students befriended Eckford with a few kind words, she said she was able to look forward to the last part of each day, giving her needed courage to carry on her individual struggle and that of the larger civil rights movement.

It's a message, she said, that should still resonate in hallways and classrooms nationwide today.

"If you reach out to someone who is being harassed, you become someone's hope, and I don't think I'm exaggerating. You help someone live another day."

(Photo by Kankakee Daily Journal)

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