Elizabeth and Hazel — By David Margolick — Book Review - The New York TimesWho were the two fifteen-year-old girls from Little Rock—one black, one white—in one of the most unforgettable photographs of the civil rights era? From what worlds did they come? What happened to them? How did the picture affect their lives? The names Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan Massery may not be well known, but the image of them from September surely is: a black high school girl, dressed in white, walking stoically in front of Little Rock Central High School, and a white girl standing directly behind her, face twisted in hate, screaming racial epithets.
Elizabeth and Hazel
In September , Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan were captured in the sickening news photograph that prompted this book. In it, Elizabeth, a sheltered, scholarly teenager in a homemade dress, walks past Little Rock Central High School while Hazel, a student there, marches behind her, spewing racist abuse. The unassailable black martyr and the irredeemable white villain soon outgrew that narrative frame, however, maturing in ways inconvenient for a history lesson. When the photo was taken, Central High was set to be desegregated, if only symbolically, in compliance with Brown v. Board of Education. A mob surrounded her. Hazel was a boy-crazy handful whose fundamentalist Christian parents had acquired indoor plumbing only a few years earlier.
Her mother had done her hair the night before; an elaborate two-hour ritual, with a hot iron and a hotter stove, of straightening and curling. Then there were her clothes. It was a practice borne of tradition, pride, and necessity: homemade was cheaper, and it spared black children the humiliation of having to ask to try things on in the segregated department stores downtown. In the fall of , Elizabeth was among the nine black students who had enlisted, then been selected, to enter Little Rock Central High School. Central was the first high school in a major southern city set to be desegregated since the United States Supreme Court had ruled three years earlier in Brown vs Board of Education that separate and ostensibly equal education was unconstitutional. Inspired both by Thurgood Marshall, who had argued the case of plaintiff Oliver L Brown, and Clarence Darrow, Elizabeth wanted to become a lawyer, and she thought Central would help her realise that dream. On the television as Elizabeth ate her breakfast, a newsman described large crowds gathering around Central.
Sign up for our newsletters! Board of Education , was less well known at that time than it is now, nearly 50 years later. Two lives that were changed completely were those of Elizabeth Eckford, an African-American teenager, and Hazel Bryan, a year-old white girl, both residents of Little Rock, Arkansas. The Book Report Network. Skip to main content.