LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- 60 years ago, on September 25, 1957, nine African American students desegregated a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. And the reverberations around the nation helped lead to the end of segregation.
Former President Bill Clinton helped mark the commemorative event Monday in Little Rock.
60 years ago on September 25, 1957, nine African American students desegregated a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Former President Bill Clinton helped mark the commemorative event on Monday.
"Ladies and gentleman, please give a special welcome to the Little Rock Nine."
It was a welcome fit for heroes, with cheers from a former president, governor and hundreds more.
But 60 years ago, the Little Rock 9 entered Little Rock's Central High School to screams from an angry mob.
"None of us talked about what it was like inside the school for 30 years," says Elizabeth Eckford, one of the students from that historic case.
Teenagers at the time, eight of the nine remaining members came back to the school Monday to remember.
"All the white people at Central High School were not nasty. Some of them were lovely people merely caught in a trap," recalls Dr. Melba Pattillo Beals.
Scenes from their first day are still etched in their minds.
One of the nine painted a picture of what her last day was like when she got her yearbook.
"There I was this now 15-year-old little girl and who was going to sign my book? Who would I dare go up to and ask to sign my book?" remembers Gloria Ray Karlmark.
Two of her white classmates did. The words from one stuck with her.
"She wrote, 'In a different age, we could have been friends.'" Karlmark says.
The Little Rock 9 hope a lot has changed since 1957.
"Making history is not something we aspired to do," says Ernest Green.
But the group also found it takes longer than six decades to be able celebrate, says Carlotta Walls Lanier.
"We've become as we were 60 years ago anxious and worried and concerned about what lies ahead."
The 42nd President reunited with the nine, sharing a similar message.
"I wanted to say you did 60 years, take a victory lap, put on your dancing shoes, have a good time. But instead I have to say you've got to put on your marching boots and lead us again."
"Let us not ever, ever indicate to you that we got here or that we made it through that year at Central High School on our own steam," Dr. Beals added.
"The only way we can have true reconciliation is if we honestly acknowledge our painful but shared past," Eckford stressed.
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