On September 5, 1957, fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Eckford prepared to go to school. What made this seemingly simple activity historic was the fact that young Elizabeth was an African-American attempting to become one of the first members of her race to attend a previously all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. Along with eight other African-American students, Elizabeth and her family had made a courageous decision to test the boundaries of the recent Brown v. the Board of Education Supreme Court decision. What greeted Elizabeth when she attempted to go to a public high school in a democratic land was a mob that hurled racial epithets, abuse and death threats at her. Once at the schoolhouse door, Elizabeth and her eight comrades were turned away by National Guardsmen called out for that purpose by the Governor of Arkansas. Eventually, with the escort of Federal troops of the 101st Airborne Division, Elizabeth and her colleagues were able to attend Central High School. However, repeated racial slurs, assaults and torment marred their time in that school. Faced with this level of abuse one of the youngsters, Melba Patillo, confided in her diary, "Please, God, make space for me." In the end, the struggles of these nine pioneers helped set the stage for the broader Civil Rights Movement that was to earn freedom for all Americans. This touching and also shameful story is ably presented in this outstanding illustrated work. 2001, Enslow Publishing, $20.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-This well-researched and well-documented account opens on September 5, 1957, as 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford, one of "The Little Rock Nine," made history. Readers are exposed to the terror of that day when Elizabeth was prevented from entering the school by an angry mob. The next chapter presents the history of segregation from the time of the Civil War to Brown v. Board of Education. The rest of the book focuses on Arkansas's determination to prevent school integration and the lengths that were taken by government officials and enraged citizens to prevent it. Somerlott clearly captures the courage of the students and their families in the face of violent threats. He also presents a broader view of the impact of this event on the city of Little Rock, the state of Arkansas, and the nation. For students who have never been exposed to segregation, this book presents an eye-opening look at a very troubled time in American history.-Sheilah Kosco, Rapides Parish Library, Alexandria, LA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.