Friday, August 9, 2013

Little Rock Girl 1957

Our fiction/non-fiction pairing finishes with...

Little Rock Girl 1957: 
How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration.

When 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford headed to her first day at Central High School, her path was blocked by the Arkansas National Guard. An angry crowd yelled, "Go home!" and chanted, "Two, four, six, eight - we don't want to integrate!"

Photographer Will Counts snapped this photo as Elizabeth tried to leave the mob:

Little Rock Girl 1957 is, not only, an amazing walk through one moment in history captured in a photograph, but also a detailed timeline of the before and after

We find that in 1896 the US Supreme Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson upholds "separate but equal" accommodations under Jim Crow laws. But in May 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court rules that separate is not equal and segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. Thurgood Marshall, the African-American attorney who argued Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court, explained why separate was not equal:
"Equal means getting the same thing, at the same time, and in the same place."

But, in 1957, when Elizabeth Eckford showed up for school at Central High in Little Rock, the governor of Arkansas ordered the National Guard to prevent the Little Rock Nine from entering the school. 

President Dwight D. Eisenhower went on television and announced his plan: he sent in the 101st Airborne Division to enforce the federal court's order to integrate the school. He also federalized the National Guard, which meant the the president, not the Arkansas governor was in charge.

One day the National Guard was told to prevent the Little Rock Nine from entering the school, and the next day they were told to protect the Little Rock Nine from the mobs as they entered the school.

And, May 27th 1958, Ernest Green becomes the first black student to graduate from Central High School.

However, Arkansas governor Orval Faubus was determined to defy the federal government. By September of 1958, Governor Faubus closed Central High School in Little Rock rather than let black students attend.  

Civil Rights leaders eventually won the conflict at Central High School. By 1972, fifteen years after the Elizabeth Eckford tried to enter Central High School, Little Rock's public school were fully integrated.

But... what about that photograph? What was learned from the power of a single photo?

A single photo can change history. News coverage can change and/or inspire a movement.

Watch Jonathan Klein's TED talk on 'Photos That Changed The World'...

Has an image ever provoked you to act?

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