Elizabeth Ann Eckford (born October 4, 1941) is one of the Little Rock Nine, a group of African-American students who, in 1957, were the first black students ever to attend classes at the previously all-white Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The integration came as a result of Brown v. Board of Education. Eckford's public ordeal was captured by press photographers on the morning of September 4, 1957, after she was prevented from entering the school by the Arkansas National Guard. A dramatic snapshot by Will Counts of the Arkansas Democrat showed the young girl being followed and threatened by an angry white mob; this and other photos of the day's startling events were circulated around the US and the world by the press.
Counts's image was the unanimous selection by the Pulitzer jury for a 1958 Pulitzer Prize, but since the story had earned then-rival Arkansas Gazette two other Pulitzer Prizes already, the Pulitzer board awarded the prize to another photographer for a pleasant photograph of a two-year-old boy in Washington, D.C. A different photo taken by Counts of Alex Wilson, a black reporter for the Memphis Tri-State Defender being beaten by the angry mob in Little Rock the same day, was chosen as the "News Picture of the Year" for 1957 by the National Press Photographers Association. This image by Counts prompted President Dwight D. Eisenhower to send federal troops to Little Rock.
Eckford only spent one year at Little Rock Central High where she and the other black students were tormented throughout. In the years since, she has struggled through life, and twice attempted suicide. She was subsequently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Last Updated: February 27, 2023