David Margolick’s book Elizabeth and Hazel (my thoughts) is a fascinating book about two fascinating women. The book tackles tough and sensitive issues while following the trials and tribulations of Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan were captured for prosperity in a photograph by Will Counts while on Elizabeth’s first day at the newly desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, AR.
Q. What prompted you to write Elizabeth and Hazel?
A. I had known and been fascinated by the famous photograph of Elizabeth and Hazel, taken in front of Little Rock Central High School during the desegregation crisis of 1957, as long as I can remember. Who, after all, doesn’trecognize Hazel’s hate-filled face? It has come to represent all of the malice and racism of the South during the early days of the Civil Rights movement, while Elizabeth, dignified and stoic, personifies the great courage of blacks fighting bigotry. So when I went to Little Rock in 1999 and learned, from a poster at the Central High School National Historic Site showing the two of them, as grown women, apparently reconciled — they were smiling and seeming at ease with one another — I wanted to know how something so improbable had ever come to pass. So I started looking into it.
Q. It surprised me to find out that the segregationist movement didn’t like the picture because it made them look bad. What did you find that surprised you?
A. I was surprised to learn that Hazel came pretty quickly to realize how egregiously she misbehaved, and how, within a few years, she tracked down Elizabeth and apologized to her. I was surprised by Elizabeth’s troubles had not ended that day: how horrendous her year at Central, which had been largely taken over by segregationist students determined to drive the black students out, had been, and that it had been followed by many decades of great sadness. I was surprised by how, with great courage, Elizabeth pulled herself out of her depression, and at how remarkable a person she is. I was surprised by how, after what had been in some ways a staged rapprochement, the two women became so close. I was surprised by how, due to misunderstandings that still beset the two races, that friendship did not last. I’m still surprised by how, though they haven’t spoken for a decade, the two clearly still feel very emotional about one another.
A. As I said, for all their very serious differences, the two have a surprising amount in common, like their intellectual curiosity and their independence. Neither has lots of friends, which is why, I think, they so enjoyed their time together.
A.It’s a complicated issue. First, there were always tensions between the two groups, even while they were cooperating in the civil rights movement. Second, they grew apart as Jews entered the American mainstream more quickly than did blacks. They parted company on some issues, like racial quotas. Some Jews might have felt more comfortable as sort of the senior partner in the coalition, and retreated when blacks became more assertive and confident themselves.
A. The old powerhouses in print journalism don’t have quite the same clout, and there are fewer outlets. It’s harder than ever to get coverage in the electronic media. And, particularly older writers less fluent online don’t really know how to negotiate the Internet. We know so many of our readers are there, but we don’t know how to reach them.
Q. Shameless plug disguised as a question: Why do you love ManOfLaBook.com so much and often visit the website?
Wise guy answer: I just like that you care about books and authors.
As you can see, here are many issues discussed in the book. I highly recommend it.
Zohar – Man of la Book
- Book Review: Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick (blogcritics.org)
- Another Book Review (thewriteedge.wordpress.com)
- Elizabeth and Hazel – By David Margolick – Book Review (nytimes.com)
- The Many Lives of Hazel Bryan (slate.com)