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Famous Photographs as Sources

John Simkin

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I thought it might be a good idea to look at important photographs in history. One photograph you often see in textbooks is a photograph taken by Will Counts of Elizabeth Eckford attempting to enter Little Rock School on 4th September, 1957. The white girl shouting abuse at Elizabeth in the photograph is Hazel Massery. It is interesting that Elizabeth and Hazel later became close friends.

Hazel Massery was interviewed about this in 1998.

I am not sure at that age what I thought, but probably I overheard that my father was opposed to integration. I vividly remember that the National Guard was going to be there. But I don't think I was old enough to have any convictions of my own yet. I was just mirroring my adult environment. I wasn't following Elizabeth. She happened to come along, the crowd shifted and I was standing in that spot so I just went along with the crowd.

I soon forget about it all. I married as a teenager, right out of school. I was not quite 17. But there was Martin Luther King's Civil Rights activities and gradually you began to think that even though he was a trouble-maker, all the while, deep in your soul, that he was right.

I think motherhood brings out the protection or care in a person. I had a sense of deep remorse that I had wronged another human being because of the colour of her skin. But you are also looking for relief and forgiveness, of course, more for yourself than for the other person.

I called her (Elizabeth Eckford). The first meeting was very awkward. What could I say to her? I thought of something finally and we kind of warmed up. The families are not at ease about this relationship. Housing is still strictly segregated in Little Rock. There is some tension regarding our safety. On one side there are blacks who feel Elizabeth has betrayed them by becoming friends with me, and certain whites feel that I have betrayed them by becoming friends with me, and certain whites feel that I have betrayed our culture. But we have become real friends.

For more details, including the photograph, see:


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