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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 October 2011
is not always an option, even after 50 years. David Margolik's study of one of American history's most iconic photographs,taken during the desegregation struggles at Little Rock Central High School, reunites the two women in picture, Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan. Eckford, the 15 year old black girl who was chosen by civil rights leaders in 1957 to be in the vanguard of desegregation movement, is pictured enduring a gauntlet of screaming whites as she tries to walk towards the school. Her main tormenter, also a 15 year old girl, the white Bryan, is immortalised as a swearing, hateful figure right behind her. Several photographers were present that day, and all took pictures of that moment in history.

But history didn't end after the snapshot was taken. Both Eckford and Bryan went through life changes as they moved from the people they had been in 1957 to older, more mature women. Bryan, who transferred away from Little Rock Central, married young and began to look at herself and her beliefs. Eckford, who stayed a year or so at the high school, was scarred by her year in the spotlight as one of the "Little Rock Nine". Determined later to be suffering from a form of PTSD from those traumatic days, combined with a depressive nature, Eckford rather drifted through life as a loner, holding jobs and raising two sons, and coming out occasionally to mark the history of the desegregation process. Bryan also was a loner, despite having an active family life, and a few years after the incident at the high school, Bryan called Eckford and apologised for her hateful actions.

The years passed and Hazel Bryan became a "searcher" for her role in life. She and Elizabeth Eckford got together and actually became friends for a while, working together on race relation workshops. They traveled around together telling "their story", how the victim and the tormenter were able to bond and heal their wounds. But did they really do that? Certainly Eckford was suspicious of Bryan's "conversion" and of her "apology". Was it sincere? It seemed to me - the reader - that Hazel Bryan truly did have a life changing journey, but I am not Elizabeth Eckford and I did not suffer the indignities she did.

David Margolick looks at both Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan and examines both their lives and the milieu both came from. Fifty years after "Little Rock" the wounds haven't healed completely. Margolick's book is a very good picture of a famous snapshot.
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