An acquaintance of mine, who is 90 years old, grew up in McGhee, Arkansas. He likes to discuss history and politics with me. He is planning a trip to visit his brother who lives in Little Rock. When I offered to accompany him there, he was shocked and said that I would be bored because there's little to do there. I was confident that there was more "to do" in Little Rock than there is in Washington Court House! I said, "I'd like to go to the museum at Central High School." He asked, incredulously, "What do you know about THAT?" I said, "Very much; it was 1957; that was a big deal when I was a girl." I told him about the new book by David Margolick, Hazel And Elizabeth: Two Women Of Little Rock. The book details the lives of Elizabeth Eckford, one of "The Little Rock Nine" who integrated Central High School, and Hazel Bryan, the 15-year-old schoolgirl shown in the famous photograph spewing racial epithets at Elizabeth.
As he is a registered Republican, I was curious why he frequently stated that he disliked President Eisenhower. Interestingly, when pressed for examples, he could never give any substantive answers. As a Democrat, I must say that it galled me, but I would answer that I admired Eisenhower's dispatching the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to integrate Central High School.
Seeing his reaction to my knowledge about Central High School, Orval Faubus, and Eisenhower's intervention, I exclaimed, "NOW I know why you dislike Eisenhower so much!" As a person who is covertly racist, he denied that Eisenhower's upholding the law was the reason for disliking him.
He told me that his younger brother attended Central High School during that period and that his brother had told him that the trouble only lasted a week. I laughed in disbelief, and I answered, "Your brother must not have been around because the account by the black kids is totally different; the abuse went on the entire time they were in school." He said, "That's not what my brother said." I said, "The book details the many abuses, among which was being scalded in the locker room." He said, "Well, my brother was THERE and you weren't!" I asked, "And who do you think I believe? Him or the students who suffered the abuse?"
CLICK HERE to see the New York Times review of Margolick's book.