Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock Hardcover – 4 Oct 2011
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What gives the story of Elizabeth and Hazel its sustaining power is that both of them, separately and together, have struggled for nearly all their lives after that day to free themselves....It s a testament to Margolick s skill as a storyteller, and to the story Elizabeth and Hazel have to tell, that the reader won t discover until the book s very end whether they ve succeeded. Lee A./i>--Lee A. Daniels "TheDefendersOnline ""
About the Author
David Margolick is contributing editor, Vanity Fair, and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review. He was for fifteen years a legal affairs reporter at the New York Times, writing the weekly 'At the Bar' column and covering the trial of O. J. Simpson, among others. His most recent book is 'Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling', and 'A World on the Brink'.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Margolick seemed particularly insightful in his analysis of how the Little Rock public was eager to cash in on their 1997 reconciliation, but which then made Massery vulnerable as the apology scape-goat of the entire community.
You read this book hoping for a happy ending, but perhaps it is a more accurate reflection of the state of current American race relations that one is not forthcoming. It's quite amazing that Eckford and Massery they gave author David Margolick permission to write so candidly about such a presently painful subject for them. I also loved the chapter on Louis Armstrong and the "lathered-up" photo.
My only small complaint is an academic one - I wished there were more extensive footnotes and a bibliography at the end.
But making a statement on paper and putting that statement into practice meant two drastically different things, as the young black girl found out that September morning in 1957.
Her name was Elizabeth Eckford, and she and eight other students had been hand-picked to be the first black students to enter Little Rock Central. Eventually they became known as the Little Rock Nine, but due to an inadvertent lack of communication Eckford entered school alone on September 4, 1957. Protestors arrived to make their voices heard. Journalists positioned themselves to record the event. And Eckford, unbeknownst to all, was about to become an integral part of history.
Her walk to school was captured in three photographs by three different people who all managed to record almost the exact same moment: Eckford, wearing sunglasses to shield the fear in her eyes and a pretty dress she'd made herself, walks alone. Behind her, among other people, is a white girl whose face exudes nothing but sheer hatred. In two of the pictures from that moment, the white girl's white is open mid-abuse. In the third--the most famous--her teeth are bared and clenched, as though she is barely restraining herself from attacking Eckford with more than words.
That girl was Hazel Bryan Massery, and author David Margolick spent time with both women to write his poignant book Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock, released Oct. 4. Margolick recounts in close detail the events leading up to that pivotal point in the civil rights moment and traces both women's lives from just before the photograph to present day. Along with interviewing the women themselves, Margolick spent years talking to other members of the Little Rock Nine and their friends, co-workers, associates, family members, and as many other people as he could to give him the most complete picture of that one day as well as that tumultuous time in history.
Margolick's efficient story-telling style takes readers quickly through those days while satisfying the curiosity anyone might have about both women. Readers will probably expect the fractured opinions of community leaders and residents alike, but Margolick surprises those same readers with the unthinkable: for a short period of time, Eckford and Massery became good friends. They spent hours spending time with each other and speaking to groups around the country about their experiences, representing the best result of the heartbreak of racial division.
Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock should be required reading in educational institutions across the country, given the struggle of so many on both sides of the issue. Integration and its consequences have never been simple issues, and Margolick's book outlines in a well-documented, well-argued tome the long-lasting effects of even the best intentions. The best intentions, readers will find, don't necessarily always yield positive, packaged results.
I wholeheartedly recommend Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock. Anyone with an opinion--any opinion--on race relations will certainly learn something from this book.
Reviewed for Bookpleasures
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 reconsider her core beliefs. Eckford, who stayed a year or so at the high school, was scarred by her time 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 tell the history of the desegregation of the high school. Bryan also was a loner, despite having an active family life, and a few years after the incident at the high school, she 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 were they really able 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.
That one miscommunication forever changed history as she walked to school and had to pass through an angry, taunting crowd shouting racial slurs and obscenities. Humiliated and scared, she was denied entrance to the school so Elizabeth had to endure more taunts and heckling as she made her way back through the angry hate-filled crowd to the bus stop and eventually to her mother's workplace.
With cries of "lynch her" and "drag her over to this tree" ringing in her ears, fifteen year old Elizabeth Eckford took a serious verbal, mental and emotional beating that day. A sheep among wolves, Elizabeth's perception of life would forever be altered by this and the experiences to come at Little Rock Central High School.
This book also tells the story of Hazel Bryan, the fifteen year old white girl in the photo, caught screaming at Elizabeth. In the years following this photo, Hazel would eventually realize the implications of her actions and call Elizabeth to apologize.
As I read about this iconic photo and how it came to be, my heart broke. As a parent, I'm not sure I could have withstood what Elizabeth's parents watched her go through as they attempted to be part of history and desegregate the school. I don't know that I could have offered up my child as an innocent lamb the way her parents did, even though it was supposedly for the betterment of her future. They trusted those in authority who reassured them this would be for the good of everyone involved.
However, Elizabeth and the other members of the Little Rock Nine endured abuse, taunts and injustice not only on September 4th but in the days to come. Though the initial reports from inside the school were upbeat once the Little Rock Nine were enrolled and attending, over time, details would surface of what really happened inside the school. Assigned "protection" inside the school under the same National Guardsmen who had previously prevented them from entering, these students endured harassment that included being hit with rocks, body slamming, broken glass and scaldings in the locker room showers.
This was a very disturbing read because it is such an honest and accurate portrayal of a very shameful part of our history. David Margolick writes it exactly as it happened, without sugar coating or glossing over the details, to soften the blow. I can't say that I enjoyed reading this story as it is heartbreaking, but as a history buff, it helped me understand a major turning point in our culture.
*More conservative readers should be aware that there are some graphic descriptions and language in this book.
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