Thelma Mothershed Wair and Elizabeth Eckford were part of the Little Rock Nine – a group of nine black students who faced discrimination and the lasting impact of segregation after enrolling in the all-white Little Rock Central High School in 1957, following the Supreme Court’s historic Brown vs. the Board of Education decision.
McCartney felt inspired to write ‘Blackbird’ after Arkansas governor Orval Faubus protested the Little Rock Nine’s enrolment, blocking the entrance which led to the Little Rock crisis.
Incredible to meet two of the Little Rock Nine–pioneers of the civil rights movement and inspiration for Blackbird. pic.twitter.com/QrnOQnqrFX
— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) May 1, 2016
Tweeting about the meeting, McCartney said it was “incredible” to meet Wair and Eckfrod, calling them “pioneers of the civil rights movement” and “inspiration for Blackbird.”
During the concert, McCartney introduced the track stating: “Way back in the Sixties, there was a lot of trouble going on over civil rights, particularly in Little Rock. We would notice this on the news back in England, so it’s a really important place for us, because to me, this is where civil rights started.
“We would see what was going on and sympathise with the people going through those troubles, and 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, and that’s this next one.”