Skip to:Content
Cover image for Elizabeth and Hazel : two women of Little Rock
Elizabeth and Hazel : two women of Little Rock
Publication Information:
Thorndike, Me. : Center Point Pub., 2011.
Physical Description:
375 p. (large print) : ill. ; 23 cm.
Local Subject:
"The names Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan Massery may not be well known, but the image of them from September 1957 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. This famous photograph captures the full anguish of desegregation -- in Little Rock and throughout the South -- and an epic moment in the civil rights movement. In this gripping book, David Margolick tells the remarkable story of two separate lives unexpectedly braided together. He explores how the haunting picture of Elizabeth and Hazel came to be taken, its significance in the wider world, and why, for the next half-century, neither woman has ever escaped from its long shadow. He recounts Elizabeth's struggle to overcome the trauma of her hate-filled school experience, and Hazel's long efforts to atone for a fateful, horrible mistake. The book follows the painful journey of the two as they progress from apology to forgiveness to reconciliation and, amazingly, to friendship. This friendship foundered, then collapsed -- perhaps inevitably -- over the same fissures and misunderstandings that continue to permeate American race relations more than half a century after the unforgettable photograph at Little Rock. And yet, as Margolick explains, a bond between Elizabeth and Hazel, silent but complex, endures"--Provided by publisher.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book LP 379.263 MAR 1 1

On Order

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Vanity Fair contributing editor Margolick (Beyond Glory) brings his considerable skill to telling a tale many may, mistakenly, think they already know. Bound together in the iconic photograph of the integration of Little Rock's Central High School in which the white Hazel Bryan is caught screaming epithets at the stoic black student, Elizabeth Eckford, the two women went on different paths charted by this sympathetic and readable dual biography. Elizabeth survived the horrendous harassment of her high school years, and the lavish attention upon the Little Rock Nine, followed by a difficult early adulthood. While Hazel's high school years, spent in anonymity at another school, are more halcyon, her early adult years are difficult as well. For both young women, the experience and the photograph that was to follow them were transformative. Margolick pays particularly insightful attention to the photographs and media coverage stimulated not only by the event but all the ensuing anniversaries. As Margolick moves through Elizabeth's days at Central High with new and meticulous detail, he gives Hazel a young life as well before turning to the separate years before they actually meet. Here Margolick's book becomes utterly engrossing, for it touches on a variety of thorny, provocative themes: the power of race, the nature of friendship, the role of personality, the capacity for brutality and for forgiveness. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

An event of racially charged intimidation, captured on film, has lasting repercussions for two women.Margolick spent 12 years researching the interlocking histories of Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan Massery, two studentsblack and white, respectivelywho simultaneously attended Arkansas' Little Rock Central High School in the 1950s. Eckford, a smart student with lawyerly aspirations, was strictly raised in a squat, crowded house. Massery, the daughter of a wounded World War II veteran, was brought up poor but hopeful and easygoing, and she frequently played with black children as a girl. Though "Little Rock in the Eisenhower era was a racial checkerboard," writes the author, its looming high school still became the first Southern institution to become desegregated, which sent Eckford, along with eight other school boardselected black student "trailblazers" (the "Little Rock Nine"), into predominantly white classrooms. This fact incensed the 15-year-old Massery, who, backed by 250 angry, prejudiced white citizens, severely bullied Eckford, an action that was captured and immortalized on film by newspaper photojournalist Will Counts. Massery remained remorseless as the fallout from her actions included denouncement from both segregationists and the general public. Eckford, together with her integrated classmates, would go on to endure years of abuse in school. Margolick's impressively thorough examination is unique among other Central High exposs in that it incorporates updated material culled from media sources including interviews with eight of the school's nine black students and statements in Eckford and Massery's own words. Both of these women, he writes, were unenthusiastic about revisiting their ordeal, even to simply set the record straightwhich the author accomplishes with graceful tact. Decades later, Massery's atonement and redemption manifested in an amicable but disappointingly short-lived friendship, joining Eckford as she accepted presidential accolades and while antagonistically interviewed onOprah. The narrative concludes with the pair's discordant severance. "At this point," he writes, "only Photoshop could bring them together."Riveting reportage of an injustice that still resonates with sociological significance.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* When Elizabeth Eckford braved the gauntlet of white hecklers leading to the newly desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957, photographers captured her image and that of the angry young white woman behind her. Elizabeth, the stoic, and Hazel Bryan, the tormentor, were frozen as icons. Elizabeth was part of the Little Rock Nine, the black teens who became the targets of race hatred as well as national and international inspirations. Despite public-relations efforts to depict the success of the Nine and the overall move to desegregation, the truth was far more complicated, particularly for Elizabeth. Margolick draws on interviews and press reports of the time to present a very nuanced analysis of how Elizabeth and Hazel were affected by the scene that made them famous. Elizabeth spent the remainder of her life a near recluse, scarred by the memory of that day, adrift emotionally, dodging the commemorations. In contrast, Hazel opened up, evolving into a free-spirited progressive. Hazel, who didn't even finish her year at Central High, later reentered Elizabeth's life with a heartfelt apology that went unreported until the two women reunited for a symbolic reconciliation and photo op back at Central. A complex look at two women at the center of a historic moment.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2010 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

IN September 1957, Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan were captured in the sickening news photograph that prompted this book. Will Counts, a sharecropper's son and young hire at The Arkansas Democrat, took the picture, laying bare the disgrace of the Jim Crow South. 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. David Margolick, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair whose books include "Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song," interviewed both women, in "Elizabeth and Hazel," he provides a patient and evenhanded account of their messy relationship over the decades. When the photo was taken, Central High was set to be desegregated, if only symbolically, in compliance with Brown v. Board of Education. One of-the "Little Rock Nine" hand-selected for the mission, Elizabeth never made it into the building that day. A mob surrounded her. "Lynch her!" some hooted, while Gov. Orval Faubus's National Guard kept the black students out of the school. Hazel was a boy-crazy handful whose fundamentalist Christian parents had acquired indoor plumbing only a few years earlier. She "looked livid" that morning, "her face poisoned with hate" as she snarled, "Go home, nigger!" Elizabeth, by then terrified behind her dark glasses, kept walking. The members of the national press - visitors from another planet - were appalled. As Little Rock boiled, President Dwight D. Eisenhower at last sent in the 101st Airborne Division to enforce the law. Hazel switched schools, but inside Central the unprotected Little Rock Nine were still being shoved in the halls and scalded in the showers, week after week. The following summer Elizabeth and her fellow foot soldiers, "potent fund-raisers for the N.A.A.C.P.," toured the country as role models, but she was still reeling. By the Kennedy era. Hazel Bryan Massery, a young wife and mother, had evolved. Mortified by the photo, she called Elizabeth to apologize. Elizabeth accepted, and Hazel went on trying to find herself - whether through bellydancing or volunteering to help black kids. After Central, Elizabeth had dropped out of college and spent five years in the Army. She eventually earned a history degree from Central State University in Ohio, and found work back in Little Rock. Wary of men, by 1980 she was a single mother of two sons and on disability for recurrent depression. Overwhelmed, she sometimes "couldn't stand to be around her children" we learn; they spent time in foster care. One of her sons, also depressed, would later be killed by police bullets after firing a weapon aimlessly in the street Elizabeth, the author tells us, was often "morose and antisocial," and received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. After a reporter tracked down Hazel in 1997, the women were reunited for a second photograph and a wave of publicity. They formed a fragile bond, attending a seminar on racial healing. "Elizabeth had never realized how paralyzed by anger and hate she had been," Margolick writes. She was "better educated . . . far more cerebral than Hazel," but Hazel was "better adjusted." A friendship developed, and the two women, exemplars of healing, were offered speaking engagements. Elizabeth thrived in a new career as a probation officer and received a Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. A joint book project was planned. But as Elizabeth gained confidence and the women "shared more time and platforms," she "spotted what she perceived to be gaps and . . . evasions, in Hazel's story." For example, Hazel refused to condemn her own parents for their bigotry. "Elizabeth had always been a stickler. She saw things keenly and remembered things precisely," Margolick notes. "The more Elizabeth got back on her feet, the more judgmental she became." Ever the exacting history student and never one to read from a facile script, Elizabeth could not offer the unreserved forgiveness that a happy ending required. Still, Elizabeth and Hazel seemed in sympathy when they appeared on "Oprah" together in 1999. They left the studio "feeling equally abused" by the show's host, according to Margolick. In his telling, Oprah Winfrey was brusque, telegraphing her disapproval of any friendship between the women. She "had gone out of her way to be hateful, Elizabeth felt." Margolick proposes no fairytale resolutions to such moral impasses. To his credit, he spares us none of the unruly facts as his subjects, still wrestling with history, wander off message. Amy Finnerty is the articles editor at World Affairs Journal.

Library Journal Review

In September 1957, Elizabeth Eckford attempted to enter Little Rock Central High School. One of what became known as the Little Rock Nine, she was prevented from entering the building and headed to a nearby bus stop instead, followed by an angry mob that included Hazel Bryan. Just as Bryan was screaming at Eckford, a journalist snapped a photo that came to define not only integration in Arkansas but, as Margolick (Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song) shows, the lives of Eckford and Bryan. There are volumes of scholarly works on the Civil Rights Movement, but this book is different. By tracing the two women's journeys from that moment until today, often in their own words, Margolick artfully lays bare the emotional and mental wounds and struggles of the participants. Both are presented as human, complete with flaws and weaknesses. Margolick also places the women in the context of the wider civil rights era and beyond. The ending is not what you would expect or even hope for but instead demonstrates how much pain is still felt by all involved and how far we all have still to travel. VERDICT Very thoughtfully and sincerely written, this work is simply a must-read. [Previewed in "Booked Solid," LJ 7/11.-Ed.]-Lisa A. Ennis, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham Lib. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Go to:Top of Page