Black History Month
Grace Lorch, who was a Boston teacher, President of the Boston Teacher’s Union and member of the Boston Central Labour Council, was best known for her work as a civil rights activist in the 50’s. Lorch was a white escort to the Little Rock Nine (the first nine black students to attend and desegregate “”””Little Rock Central High School”””” in 1957).
On their first day at the school, the Little Rock Nine were instructed to arrive together. However, 15 year old Elizabeth Eckford didn’t receive the instruction and found herself face to face with an angry mob. Lorch arrived at the scene, after having just dropped her young daughter off at school, and escorted Eckford home. Soon after Eckford’s rescue, the Lorch family became the target of racists. They were harassed by the press, bullied by neighbours and repeatedly threatened. By 1959, Lorch was blacklisted, exiling the family to Canada where she died in 1974.
Eckford’s famous rescue has since become an iconic image of the civil rights movement. Lorch’s work as an activist didn’t stop there. She was also known for her activism with women’s rights. After marrying her husband in 1943, Lorch was dismissed from her teaching job of 20 years because of a regulation instilled by the Boston School Committee banning teachers from marrying.
She was the first teacher to challenge the Boston school regulation. Lorch was unsuccessful in her attempt to change policy but in 1953, legislature finally ended the ban on married teachers.