But 61 years later, educational and employment opportunities still are biased against blacks. To understand why the battle has been so hard, we need to understand the depth of racist attitudes, and one way to do this is by visiting museums dedicated to recording this fight for equal rights.
At the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Ala., one gallery focused on the angry responses of locals to what they saw as an invasion by outsiders who didn’t understand their way of life. Their responses show they didn’t realize how prejudiced they were.
Examples in displays about the process include comments that “blacks were happy — they sang and had a good time until the northern interlopers came in and riled them up” and “blacks were a primitive people who were not fully ready to be integrated.” Particularly nerve-wracking to us were the clips of Southern governors talking about how states should be left to have their own laws, and that the national government had no right to interfere with their traditions.
One of the nine, Elizabeth Eckford, took to carrying her notebook in front of her with pins sticking slightly out, which did, after the first attack, avert further frontal attacks. The books of the nine were stolen and ripped. Pencils and spit balls were thrown at them. Ink was squirted on their clothes. Even white students who might have been sympathetic didn’t dare to do anything to protect them for fear the anger would be turned on them.