Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Elizabeth and Hazel

Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock
by David Margolick
Yale University Press, 2011. 310 pgs. Nonfiction

In September, 1957 courts ordered the schools in Little Rock, Arkansas to integrate. Nine black students were chosen to begin attending Central High school, but when they got to school the first day they were greeted by an angry mob that blocked their entrance. Photographer Will Counts captured an image of white student Hazel Bryan yelling racial slurs at black student Elizabeth Eckford that has become one of the most published photographs of the Civil Rights era. But what happened to Hazel and Elizabeth after that day? Margolick interviews both women and describes the ways in which they have lived with the legacy of that photograph during the last fifty years as well as how race relations in America have fared during that time.

This book gave me a greater, more complex understanding of recent American history. Margolick doesn’t shy away from describing the difficult and ugly parts of our past, and he doesn’t try to force the story into a moral or a happy ending. At the same time, this was a very good book and I felt like I understood and empathized with both of these women much more than I would have before reading it.


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