Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock

Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock

by David Margolick


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Who 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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300187922
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 09/04/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 427,826
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

David Margolick is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"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." —-Publishers Weekly


Your previous book, Beyond Glory, was about the great boxing matches between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling. How did you get from there to Little Rock, 1957?
Actually, I began the two projects at roughly the same time. While in Little Rock to do a Clinton-related magazine story in 1999, I visited the museum across from Central High School. Like so many others, I well knew the picture of Elizabeth and Hazel from 1957. So I was flabbergasted to see a poster there showing the two of them, now grown women, standing next to one another, smiling, apparently reconciled. How had that happened? It seemed inconceivable. So I began gathering material on it. The two projects share a lot, in addition to their racial themes; each focuses on a discrete event—the first, a fight lasting about two minutes, the second, an exposure lasting probably a sixtieth of a second—to reveal an era.

Was it difficult to find Elizabeth and get her to speak with you?
No, Elizabeth was in the same house she'd lived in the day the picture was taken. I had expected her to be resistant but she wasn't at all, particularly once we got going. Elizabeth has an enormous respect for history and the historical process.

And Hazel?
Hazel was much more reluctant. Though she left school at seventeen, she's read widely in the history of American race relations, and knew of the historic alliance between blacks and Jews. For that reason, among others, she feared that Elizabeth and I would gang up on her. I made a very poor impression on her in our first meeting, and as the fragile friendship she'd struck up with Elizabeth faltered, her position toward me hardened. It was only seven years later, after an early version of this story appeared in Vanity Fair, that she relented. Then she opened up to me, and I came to realize how remarkable a person she, too, is.

Did you have any idea that their personal stories would intersect in such a fascinating way?
I knew, from the poster, that they'd come together again. But only later did I learn that five years or so after the picture was taken, Hazel had called Elizabeth to apologize. That was enormously significant to me, a key to her character. It said to me that for all the skepticism and hostility Hazel has encountered over the years, she in fact did the right thing in the right way: early on, when no cameras were rolling.

The book took you twelve years to complete. Why so long?
Well, apart from the multitasking that all journalists must do these days, the story turned out to be endlessly rich. I interviewed dozens of people, some repeatedly, including seven of the other eight of the Little Rock Nine. I shudder to think how many times I questioned Elizabeth; whenever I told her I was almost certainly done she laughed, because she knew there would be more questions. Hazel also put up with a lot of me.

Can you tell us something about your most recent trip to Little Rock?
Though my reporting was pretty much finished, I accompanied my friend Larry Schiller as he took portraits of the two women. We thought it essential to capture how two faces that are seared into the national memory had evolved with time and experience. Two of those photographs appear on the jacket of my book. Being with Elizabeth and Hazel one last time, and recording them once more for history, was very moving.

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Elizabeth and Hazel 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
hotshots More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I'm 81 year old white woman and grew up in the midwest, that was before the Civil Rights act was passed. I'm grateful for all the courage and bravery some citizens went through at those troubled times. It made our country stronger, however there is still too much raceism around. Loved this true story.
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
Eliz­a­beth and Hazel: Two Women of Lit­tle Rock by David Mar­golick is a non fic­tion book about two ladies who were made famous by the press. The book looks his­tory square in the eye and doesn't flinch. Eliz­a­beth Eck­ford and Hazel Bryan were cap­tured for pros­per­ity in a pho­to­graph by Will Counts. The pic­ture which is a disgrace to the Jim Crow south struck chords in many peo­ple in Amer­i­can on many lev­els and still does so today. How­ever, the two women in the pic­ture, Eliz­a­beth Eck­ford walk­ing in a dig­ni­fied man­ner away from an assault­ing Hazel Bryan, soon grew out of the pic­ture, matur­ing and resent­ing the role which they were not pre­pared to play. Eliz­a­beth and Hazel: Two Women of Lit­tle Rock by David Mar­golick is an amaz­ing book which is read­able and thought­ful. Mr. Mar­golick man­aged to tackle tough issues with hon­esty and sen­si­tiv­ity which are rare in today's world. The pic­ture cap­tured a moment in time which shook the world. It had every­thing, a mar­tyr, a vil­lain and his­tory. How­ever, we still remem­ber those two women, the dig­ni­fied Eliz­a­beth and the shout­ing Hazel as they were in Sep­tem­ber of 1957. Mr. Mar­golick finds out what hap­pened after the pic­ture was taken in a fair, even, hon­est and patient account. The moment shaped Elizabeth's future. She suf­fered tremen­dously from her instant fame, her abuse for years at Cen­tral High School and the after­math of her brave brush with his­tory. Hazel, on the other hand, was play­ing hooky from school and for­got that moment in almost an instant. Years later, Hazel who real­ized what she has done called to apol­o­gize but it wasn't until 1997 when the two women were reunited and formed a frag­ile bond. I can­not judge nei­ther of the two. I can­not even imag­ine going through the hard­ships Eliz­a­beth has endured or the men­tal anguish Hazel has had after being made, for years, the face of segregation. The book has sur­prised me more times than I could count. For instance, the seg­re­ga­tion­ist lead­ers abhorred the pic­ture because it made them look bad, or the way Eliz­a­beth and Hazel han­dled their indi­vid­ual and col­lec­tive expe­ri­ences over the years or even the way Oprah behaved. This book has a lot to teach our soci­ety. It doesn't see his­tory in rose col­ored glasses, nor the present, nor the future. It presents things as they are, giv­ing the reader food for thought.
book58lover on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this book so massively compelling that I am breaking one of my rules; I am adding a book that I don't own. I picked this up on the way out of the library because I had heard the author speak on the radio. Now I can't put it down. The author describes the horrible time in 1957 that the Little Rock High School was integrated by nine black teenagers. Elizabeth was the most famous because she is in that iconic Pulitzer Prize winning photo being surrounded by screeching white students. Hazel is the student directly behind her in the photo, screaming at her. This book will make you cry and make you angry but you can't stop reading. Elizabeth was emotionally damaged because of the experience, the least of which was the isolation from the other students, her family and anyone that could have helped her. Despite what you think of segregation and integration, this was a young person that suffered and shouldn't have. The author makes clear what happens after the photo, after the main event, after everyone walks away. It brings to mind the saying that "names will never hurt you". What a lie. That is the story of these young women's lives, a story we should never forget.
Citizenjoyce on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Remember that picture of the slight African American girl in white integrating the school in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 with the white girl behind her screaming and blasting hate at her? Elizabeth is the African American girl, Hazel the white one. Using the picture as a base David Margolick discusses both the nature of friendship and the evolution of racism. Hazel is a fun loving, optimistic extrovert happily married for years to her high school sweetheart, a loving mother, grandmother and great grandmother. She seems intelligent enough but not intellectual, and her sincere efforts at self assessment seem to skim the surface. Elizabeth is shown to be the essential introvert, consistently pessimistic and intellectual, and sharing to some degree her family's history of emotional problems. Loving is very difficult for her though she does have two sons. You know the saying just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you? Paranoia is another governing aspect of Elizabeth's life, and the abuse and harassment she suffered when she tried to integrate Central High School possibly sent her into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that's expressed through that paranoia.How could these two women be friends? For a while it looked as if it could happen, but there was a big sticking point. Have you read reports of a rapist or near rapist who insists that he was just "fooling around"? He didn't mean anything bad by what he did and was kind of surprised by how upset the woman became. So when he apologizes he means his apology, he's truly sorry the woman was upset but he doesn't really own up to the evil intent of his actions. That's pretty much what happened with Hazel. She looks back at that picture of herself spewing invectives and says she was just fooling around and trying to get attention, she didn't really hate Elizabeth or any other African American. She apologized to Elizabeth and meant it, but Elizabeth sees that Hazel can't own up to the hate expressed in her actions, and she can't overcome her resentment of that hatred. Elizabeth's introversion and self reliance enabled her to walk through that screaming crowd, to attend a year of school in which she was harassed daily, but it holds her back from forgiveness. Hazel's extroversion and optimism help her forgive herself for her missteps but hold her back from the self analysis that could lead to true repentance. How can these women be friends? How can anyone overcome strong differences in order to maintain friendship. Can we really overcome the urge to dislike "the other?" Margolick's book raises the questions and is a great base for discussion, but we need to come up with our own answers, if there are any.
Chatterbox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I would never have stumbled over Elizabeth and Hazel by David Margolick had another LTer not been reading it and mentioned it to me, although the book itself came up in conversation at a dinner I attended last week. (The person who recommended it enthusiastically described the narrative, but couldn't remember title or author. Grrr.) Serendipity...It's the story of two women whose lives remain inextricably linked some 54 years after a moment in their shared history was captured on camera: the snapshot of a 15-year-old Hazel yelling racial epithets at 15-year-old Elizabeth, attempting to enroll as one of the first black students at Little Rock Central High School only to find herself caught and isolated in the midst of a howling mob. Is someone's life defined by one moment in time? Margolick's book explores that, even as he recounts the lives of both happy-go-lucky and careless Hazel, and quiet, studious Elizabeth; their experiences that first crucial year of integration (especially those of Elizabeth; while Hazel left the school, Elizabeth remained for a year during which she was harassed without letup.) It's the latter third of the book that is most striking, as it deals with the brief friendship between the two; while Hazel had apologized to Elizabeth as early as 1963, in the 1990s the two women became friendly for a few years, an event that dewy-eyed sentimentalists chose to view as an example of how the United States could overcome its history of legalized discrimination and violence against its African-American citizens. Needless to say, nothing in life is ever that simple. The two women pulled apart, with Elizabeth disappointed and angry that (in her mind) Hazel showed no willingness to engage with the deeper-rooted racism Elizabeth was convinced still existed in her and her family; Hazel, for her part, being bemused by Elizabeth's growing anger and inability to look forward. "Whites weren't ready for desegregation in 1957, and blacks weren't ready for reconciliation now. Elizabeth didn't want reconciliation; she wanted revenge." Hazel grows to envy the openly racist students from Central, who gave Elizabeth far more grief and yet who never felt called on to apologize, and who lived quiet lives.This is a fascinating book to read, because Margolick somehow manages (at least in my eyes) to do the impossible and walk the narrow line dividing the two women, understanding and communication the point of view of each while also understanding the flaws and foibles of both women. Moving to the US in my 30s, even as a US citizen, I had little understanding of how visceral these race issues were. In Canada, where I attended college and lived in my 20s and early 30s, while such things exist, they don't carry the same weight, given the minimal history of slavery and Jim Crow-style laws. (But then in Canada, "visible minorities" historically made up a smaller part of the population.) Arriving to live for the first time in the US as an adult, listening to both sides, I found both perspectives -- ably represented here -- distressing. Hazel was certainly a racist, or held racist views -- and became the face of bigotry in that infamous photo. Yet she had the courage -- long before it was fashionable -- to apologize and seek forgiveness. Yet for many of those in Little Rock, no apology would ever be sincere enough to matter. I can understand why a traumatized Elizabeth pulled back from the friendship; why a despondent and exhausted Hazel withdrew. And yet the fact that they did saddens me.So this was a very emotional book to read, even without having been part of the history myself. Does this mean that a century from now, we will still be struggling with the legacy of racism in the south -- the lynchings, the denial of humanity? In a way, the issues that Margolick addresses in the later history of the two women are ones that seem to me to dominate the whole debate over race, making this an important book, even if both women are weary of bei
55T-Bird More than 1 year ago
I applaud David Margolick for doing the research to tell the rest of the story of September 4, 1957 but also for showing the divergent lives of two women since that day.  I wasn't born until years after the height of the Civil Rights movement so reading this caused me to think introspectively about how I would have reacted if I had been in the midst of that.  This is a powerful story about what the far-reaching and unforeseen consequences of seemingly insignificant actions might be and what can be learned from that.  My heart breaks for both of these women for the part they had to play in this drama.  But this book also provides a reminder of why respect for others should be paramount in our daily lives.  I'm glad I read this book and more fully understand the story behind the photo.
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Just to let you know, Sammy kissed Aero and almost had se<_>x with him.. T.T
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"I love you so much," she chokes and leans into him.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pads in