The Little Rock Nine captured the nation’s attention in 1957.
They were the first nine black students to enroll at the all-white Little Rock Central High School.
They faced hostility from the community and opposition from Arkansas’ governor, who ordered the Arkansas National Guard to keep the students out.
Elizabeth Eckford was one of the nine.
Eckford went to Capitol Hill this week to share her story at the invitation of the National Guard.
It was a historic day that captured national attention and is forever etched in the mind of Elizabeth Eckford.
“There an organized group of students, lead by adults passed out hate literature and coordinated their attacks on us,” Eckford said.
Eckford was one of the Little Rock Nine, nine black students who integrated Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957.
Their efforts were met with resistance from white students, and the governor called in the Arkansas National Guard, but it wasn’t to protect Eckford.
“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 her book, “The Worst First Day.”
Her story inspired military officials to invite Eckford to Washington, D.C. to speak with current National Guard troops.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Eurydice Stanley helped to coordinate the visit.
“It was an opportunity to share the experiences Elizabeth had with the Little Rock Nine.
Eckford said the guardsmen had their orders, 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.
It’s been more than 60 years since Eckford’s courageous efforts.
“Let people know they can make a difference and be the difference,” Eckford said.
Eckford said she hopes sharing her story now encourages younger generations to stand up against discrimination.