October is Arts and Humanities Month nationally and in Little Rock. Americans for the Arts has identified a different arts topic to be posted for each day in the month. Today’s focus is photography.
While Little Rock has many photographers of whom I very fond, I have chosen to highlight an image taken by Ernest Withers in September 1957. A copy of this photo is in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture as well as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
The photo is The “Little Rock Nine’s” first day of school. Little Rock, Arkansas.
It depicts several members of the Little Rock Nine getting out of the car on September 25, 1957, their first day of school. On one hand, it is typical of teenagers then, and now. They are carrying assignments and their books. One of them has dropped something and is bent over to pick it up. It appears to be from left to right, Carlotta Walls, Melba Pattillo, Elizabeth Eckford, and Minnijean Brown.
But on the other hand, the photo is anything but typical. They are being escorted by soldiers. Crowds of people are amassed on the front steps watching it all unfold. The rest of the street by the car is bare.
History was about to be made.