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Elizabeth Eckford wanted the black-and-white dress to look perfect. It was her first day of school at Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., and Elizabeth wanted to look her best.
As her mom made breakfast, Elizabeth busily ironed the home-made dress, making sure the creases were straight and the wrinkles were gone.
Elizabeth was almost ready for school when her brother turned on the television. The newscaster's voice echoed through the small house. "A crowd has already gathered in front of Central High," the announcer said. "Many people wonder whether nine Negro children will show up at Central today."
This was not going to be an ordinary first day of school for Elizabeth and eight other African American students. It was Sept. 4, 1957, and never had a black student set foot in all-white Central High School.
State officials had barred Elizabeth and other black students from attending Central High or any of …