Over the weekend, Paul McCartney met two of the women who inspired the Beatles’ classic song “Blackbird” — Thelma Mothershed Wair and Elizabeth Eckford, two members of the Little Rock Nine. The Little Rock Nine was a group of black students who enrolled at an all-white high school in 1957 in Arkansas following the Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark 1954 Brown v. the Board of Education case that schools must be desegregated. The students comprising the Little Rock Nine were initially prevented from entering the racially segregated school by Orval Faubus, governor of Arkansas, before President Dwight Eisenhower intervened by ordering in the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army to escort the children to the high school.
McCartney was in Little Rock on Saturday for a stop on his One on One Tour when he was introduced to Wair and Eckford backstage. Before his performance of “Blackbird,” McCartney spoke to the audience about how hearing about the American Civil Rights Movement, and especially the Little Rock crisis, inspired the making of the song. “It made me want to write a song that, if it ever got back to the people going through those troubles, it might just help them a little bit.”
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