Wednesday, August 16, 2017


After writing yesterday's article about the face of hate, I was reminded about David Margolick's excellent book Elizabeth And Hazel:  Two Women Of Little Rock.   The book details the lives of Elizabeth Eckford, one of "The Little Rock Nine", who integrated  Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Hazel Bryan, the fifteen-year-old schoolgirl shown in the famous photograph as she was spewing racial epithets at Elizabeth.

An acquaintance of mine, who is 90 years old, grew up in McGhee, Arkansas. He likes to discuss history and politics with me. He was planning a trip to visit his brother who lives in Little Rock. When I said that I would like to go there, he was surprised 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 responded, "Quite a lot;  that happened in 1957;  that was a big deal when I was a girl."  I told him about David Margolick's book.  He said he din't need to read a book because he "lived through it".

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 his 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 actually suffered the abuse?"

No comments: