Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock

The Riveting, Revelatory Story Behind One of the Civil Rights Movement's Most Iconic Photographs

New Haven, Connecticut, UNITED STATES


NEW HAVEN, Conn., Oct. 5, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Early in the morning of September 4, 1957, two girls in Little Rock, Arkansas, dressed for school. Both were fifteen years old and about to begin the 11th grade. One, Elizabeth Eckford, was black. The other, Hazel Bryan, was white. Later that morning, Elizabeth and Hazel would be captured in a photograph as the opposing faces of the civil rights movement. Elizabeth—dressed all in white, her handmade white cotton piqué skirt meticulously ironed, her sensitive eyes shielded by dark glasses—was the picture of dignity as she walked away from an angry mob after being denied entrance to Little Rock Central High School, on the day marked for its historic integration of nine black students with more than two thousand white ones. Hazel, dressed in a sleek, tight-fitting dress, stood out from the pack of rabble-rousers for her expression. Caught up in the passion of shouting racial epithets, she looked livid, her pretty face contorted by hatred. From that moment on, the lives of Elizabeth and Hazel would be profoundly altered and inextricably intertwined.                    

In Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock (Yale University Press; October 4, 2011; $26, hardcover), acclaimed journalist, Vanity Fair contributing writer, and author David Margolick tells the remarkable story of the impact of a single photograph on the world and on its separate, yet in many ways strikingly similar, subjects. Drawing on a dozen years of research, including extended conversations with Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan Massery, Margolick traces the different paths the two women took after that pivotal day. He then recounts the improbable development, forty years later, when the two antagonists became friends. And he tells the heartbreaking yet very human story of how their friendship eventually unraveled. "At this point, only Photoshop could bring them together," Margolick regretfully observes.                                            

Intelligent, serious, but painfully shy and sheltered, Elizabeth was in some ways an unlikely choice for the trailblazing Little Rock Nine. Worse, she didn't have the support of even the other Eight on that fateful day. Because her family did not own a phone, Elizabeth missed the call, received by the other Eight the night before, directing them to meet the next morning and proceed to Central as a group. Then, after the photograph of Elizabeth and Hazel appeared in newspapers across the country, Elizabeth was thrust into the national spotlight as a heroine. Overwhelmed by her sudden fame and memories of the menacing crowd, she nevertheless returned to school, only to endure a year of abuse—emotional, verbal, and physical—fueled by a minority of white segregationist students.

Elizabeth never did realize her ambitions of becoming a lawyer. Instead, she dropped out of college (twice), attempted suicide (several times), and battled depression and poverty. While Elizabeth was flooded in the fall of 1957 with letters from strangers applauding her courage, Hazel momentarily attracted criticism for her glaring racism. But because Hazel was seldom identified by name, even in her hometown papers, she got little mail and gave what she got little mind. To avoid backlash, Hazel's parents transferred her to another school. Away from Central, the vivacious Hazel quickly rebounded and fell in love, quitting school at age sixteen for marriage.

It was only years later when, as a young mother, Hazel began to ponder the racial turmoil sweeping the South and her small but indelible contribution to it. One night in the early 1960s, when she was around twenty years old, Hazel found herself thinking about Elizabeth and her own legacy. Determined to be a model of racial tolerance for her young sons, Hazel resolved to get her own house in order. On an impulse, she grabbed the Little Rock phone directory and called Elizabeth to apologize. Elizabeth graciously accepted. The end of their brief conversation marked the beginning of Hazel's journey from closed-mindedness to public service and racial healing. Forty years after the 1957 picture, Elizabeth and Hazel met again and posed for a second picture, this one representing, all too briefly, the face of racial reconciliation.

Through the lens of the complex relationship between two brave and proud women, ELIZABETH and HAZEL reveals the personal toll of the civil rights conflict. Stopping to focus and reflect on each momentous anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School, Margolick explores how:                                 

  • Elizabeth Eckford suffered for the cause of black progress. Years after her ordeal at Central High, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • Hazel Bryan Massery helped Elizabeth break out of her shell, become more comfortable with talking publicly about her painful past, and take control of her life;
  • Hazel was naïve about the power of one well-meaning woman's public apology to heal a long, troubled history of black oppression and injustice at the hands of white Southerners;  
  • Hazel became a scapegoat, resented by local whites as well as blacks for her role in reaffirming and publicizing Elizabeth's victimization on September 4, 1957;    
  • Elizabeth grew distrustful of Hazel, how Hazel grew resentful of Elizabeth, and how unfortunate misunderstandings sealed the fate of their brief, mutually uplifting friendship.    

Raising tough but important questions about the fallout of racism in America, ELIZABETH and HAZEL ends on a sad, but neither despondent nor hopeless, note. The fact that Elizabeth and Hazel once found a way to forgive and befriend one another means that others divided by race can do so as well, and that maybe even Elizabeth and Hazel themselves can one day find their way back to friendship, or at least to mutual respect and understanding.

Watch the book trailer on YouTube!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

DAVID MARGOLICK is one of America's most respected journalists. He is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, where he writes about culture and politics. He served as national legal affairs editor at the New York Times and wrote the weekly "At the Bar" column for seven years. His four previous books include Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song and Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink. Margolick is a graduate of the Loomis School, University of Michigan, and Stanford Law School. He lives in New York City.

Events for
David Margolick,
ELIZABETH AND HAZEL:
Two Women of Little Rock

Tuesday, October 11th: New York, NY

Strand Book Store, 828 Broadway,

New York, NY; 7:00PM

Thursday, October 13th: Madison, CT

R.J. Julia Bookseller, 768 Boston Post Road,
Madison, CT; 7:00PM

Friday-Sunday, October 14-16th: Nashville, TN
Southern Festival of Books, Legislative Plaza, at Tennessee State Capitol Nashville, TN

Sunday, October 16th: Washington, DC
Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC; 5:00PM

Contact: Justin Loeber, Patrick Paris or Joshua Burke

212-260-7576, Media@MouthPublicRelations.com

Brenda King

203-432-0917, Brenda.King@Yale.edu                                           

ELIZABETH and HAZEL: Two Women of Little Rock
By David Margolick
Publication Date: October 4, 2011
320 Pages  $26.00 hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-300-14193-1 hardcover    
eBook ISBN: 978-0-300-17835-7

Brenda King

Publicity Director

Yale University Press

(203) 432-0917

brenda.king@yale.edu

Yale University Press is a premiere scholarly book publisher of art, architecture, business, economics, environmental studies, history, law, literature,  philosophy, political science, psychology, reference, religion, science, and world languages titles.


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[Image] Book Trailer: Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock, by David Margolick