LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — It was 60 years ago today that nine African-American children entered an all-white high school in Little Rock — after the Supreme Court declared separate schools for blacks and whites unconstitutional.
On Monday, the eight survivors recalled that milestone in civil rights history — and said the battle is not over.
Melba Beals was only 15 years old when she became one of nine teenagers in 1957 to integrate Little Rock Central High School.
“The memories of the Central High School experience are always with me. They just sort of don’t go away,” Beals said.
After an angry mob blocked them from entering the school, President Dwight Eisenhower ordered federal troops to protect them.
The students became known as the “Little Rock Nine.” Minnijean Brown-Trickey said the hate she faced 60 years ago took away part of her innocence.
“One of the things I think that comes up is the fear, how we felt and how we were so shattered,” Brown-Trickey said.
She said that back then, they weren’t invited to the prom or other social events. But on Monday, the “Little Rock Nine” were welcomed back and remembered for their sacrifice and their strength, like when Elizabeth Eckford stayed composed despite numerous taunts aimed at her.
“None of us talked about what it was like inside the school for 30 years,” Eckford said.
Gloria Ray Karlmark remembered the last day of school and the message one white classmate left in her yearbook: “She wrote ‘in a different age, we could have been friends,'” she said.
“When you think about it, we are going forward very slowly because forces of opposition keep pushing back,” said Terrance Roberts.
For the “Little Rock Nine,” they don’t celebrate themselves. They instead celebrate the possibility they they still represent today.