Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Elizabeth and Hazel

Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock
by David Margolick
New Haven : Yale University Press, c2011.

In September 1957, Central School in Little Rock, Arkansas, was court ordered to integrate. Nine black students were to attend. One of them, Elizabeth Eckford, walked alone and was turned away by National Guardsmen. During her walk, photographers captured her while white students behind. In particular focus was Hazel Massery, face contorted standing just behind Elizabeth in the picture. This is the story of that photograph and how these two women were forever impacted by that day.

David Margolick gives a much broader picture that the one photograph of that day, beginning with brief explanations of how Hazel and Elizabeth reached that point, and continuing with the story of what happened to the Little Rock Nine after they began at Central. While much of the Civil Rights era was before I was born and reads like history to me, both of these women experienced it and are still living, making the issues of race relations and prejudice all the more present and less historical in feel. It's a powerful story and one that leaves a lot to discuss:
  • Should a person be defined by one moment?
  • How would you have reacted as a student, either black or white?
  • Can major breaches like these ever truly heal?
This one will stick with me for a long time.

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