Central High School’s Memory Project students, the National Park Service and community leaders gathered today at Park and 16th streets with Little Rock Nine member Elizabeth Eckford to break ground for a commemorative bench to honor Eckford.
The bench will be a replica of the original that Eckford retreated to on Sept. 4, 1957, when the National Guard blocked the Little Rock Nine (originally 10 but nine after that first day) from desegregating Central High School. Eckford’s heckling by a mob, both on the way to school and as she sat on the bench, were captured in iconic photographs of the shameful day. Finally, a reporter, Benjamine Fine, sat next to Eckford on the bench to comfort her and a white woman, Grace Lorch, escorted her safely onto a city bus.
As part of the project, a mobile app will be developed for the students’ audio walking tour of eyewitness accounts, which the Memory Project has been compiling. Students and partners will also develop a StoryCorps recording booth for interviews and student podcasts.
Partners in the project include the Bullock Temple C.M.E; Central High and its East Lab; the Little Rock School District; the city of Little Rock; the Central Arkansas Library System’s Butler Center for Arkansas Studies; the Good Earth Garden Center; Friends of Central High Museum Inc., Home Depot, Little Rock Club 99 and other Rotary Clubs; Pam Brown Courtney and Dr. Willis Courtney, the Clinton School of Public Service; Unity in the Community; and others.