Hazel Massery

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Hazel shouting at Elizabeth (center)

Hazel Bryan Massery (born 'Michi', c. 1942) was a student at Little Rock Central High School during the 1950s. She was depicted in an iconic photograph that showed her shouting at Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, during the integration crisis. In her later life, she would attempt to make amends for this and briefly became friends with Eckford.

Little Rock Nine and The Education Integration[edit]

The integration between African Americans and white people in public facilities was not an easy move. In 1954, the Supreme Court’s decision of the Brown v. Broad of education was a significant move towards integration and the equality of African Americans in the United States. In 1955, the Supreme Court addressed an additional Brown decision of integrating national schools. However, the majority of the white citizens in southern states didn’t accept the Browns decision. “The vast majority of southern congressional representatives and senators signed the ‘Southern Manifesto’, which urged white southerner to ‘resist force integration by any lawful means’.” [1] Since education is the first step of integrating the two races, the opposing power became the strongest in times.

The resistance came mostly from the parents of white students in the school, and they were worried about their children going to the same school with African-American kids. The resistance was also violent too: with angry mobs on the street, the opposing power was mostly supported by the armed State Guard.

On September 4th, 1957, nine African-American children, including Elizabeth Eckford entered the Little Rock Central High, Arkansas. However, Eckford was late on the day of enrollment and met the mob alone. The famous photo of Hazel Bryan shouting at Elizabeth Eckford was taken that day.

Life[edit]

Hazel Bryan Massery, the daughter of a disabled war veteran, was actually not really interested in politics. Due to her young age when she was involved in the civil rights movement, which is fifteen, Hazel Bryan may not have developed a full understanding towards racial problems.

September 4th is the day that the nine African-American students going to the Central High School. However, Elizabeth didn’t walk with the other eight students because she was late. On her way to the school, the state guard tried to stop her several times. Few girls following Eckford shouting “Two, four, six, eight! We don’t want to integrate!”[2] One of them is Hazel Bryan. Benjamin Fine of The New York Times later described her as “she was screaming, just hysterical, just like one of these Elvis Presley hysterical deals, where these kids are fainting with hysteria.” [3] in the iconic photo taken by 26-year-old journalist Will Counts, Hazel’s eyes are narrowed and her anger are written on her face. Many people mistaken her as an adult, in fact, she is just another fifteen year old student in Central High.

After the photo being public, Hazel started to receive hate mail, all from the north. In the article “Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan: the story behind the photograph that shamed America”, the author David Margolick writes “Hazel’s parents, though, found her sudden notoriety sufficiently alarming to pull her out of the school.”[4] After the Little Rock Nine event, Hazel actually didn’t spend another day in the Central High.

The Life After the “Little Rock Nine” Event[edit]

Hazel left her new school when she was 17 and got married with Antoine Massery and began a family. After that, her mind toward Martin Luther King and the concept of desegregating changes. “Hazel Bryan Massery was curious, and reflective... One day, she realized, her children would learn that that snarling girl in their history books was their mother. She realized she had an account to settle.”[5]

In 1963, having changed her mind on integration and feeling guilt for her treatment of Eckford, she took the initiative of contacting Eckford to apologize. They went their separate ways after this first meeting, and Eckford did not name the girl in the picture when asked about it by reporters.[6]The conversation was on the telephone and lasted for one minute. "I just told her who I was—I was the girl in that picture that was yelling at her, that I was sorry, that it was a terrible thing to do and that I didn't want my children to grow up to be like that, and I was crying," Hazel says. [7]

After that call, Hazel Bryan still felt it is not enough to recover her fault. During the time after the Little Rock, “ Hazel had become increasingly political, branching out into peace activism and social work.”[8] David Margolick discovers “She taught mothering skills to unmarried black women, and took underprivileged black teenagers on field trips. She frequented the black history section at the local Barnes & Noble, buying books by Cornel West and Shelby Steele and the companion volume to Eyes on the Prize.”[9]

On the other hand, Hazel Bryan always hopes her reputation could be gained back. But this didn’t happen until 40th anniversary of Central’s desegregation in 1997. Will Count, the journalist who took the famous picture, arranged for Elizabeth and Hazel to meet again.The reunion provided an opportunity for acts of reconciliation, as noted in this editorial from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on the first day of 1998:

"One of the fascinating stories to come out of the reunion was the apology that Hazel Bryan Massery made to Elizabeth Eckford for a terrible moment caught forever by the camera. That 40-year-old picture of hate assailing grace — which had gnawed at Ms. Massery for decades — can now be wiped clean, and replaced by a snapshot of two friends. The apology came from the real Hazel Bryan Massery, the decent woman who had been hidden all those years by a fleeting image. And the graceful acceptance of that apology was but another act of dignity in the life of Elizabeth Eckford."[10]

Friendship+ with Elizabeth Eckford[edit]

Feeling awkward when they first met, Elizabeth and Bryan surprisingly became really great friend afterwards:

“They went to flower shows together, bought fabrics together, took mineral baths and massages together, appeared in documentaries and before school groups together. Since Elizabeth had never learned to drive, Hazel joked that she had become Elizabeth's chauffeur. Whenever something cost money, Hazel treated; it was awkward for Elizabeth, who had a hard time explaining to people just how poor she was.”[11]

In 1998, Massery told The Guardian, "I am not sure at that age what I thought, but probably I overheard that my father was opposed to integration.... But I don't think I was old enough to have any convictions of my own yet." Later in life she changed her mind; she had thought of Martin Luther King as a "trouble-maker", but realized "deep down in your soul, he was right."[citation needed]

Soon after, the friendship began to fray. In 1999, David Margolick travelled to Little Rock and arranged to meet Elizabeth and Hazel. According to Hazel Bryan, she said, “I think she still… at times we have a little… well, the honeymoon is over and now we’re getting to take out the garbage.”[12] As Eckford began to believe Massery "wanted me to be cured and be over it and for this not to go on... She wanted me to be less uncomfortable so that she wouldn't feel responsible anymore." [13] Other eight of the Little Rock Nine didn’t want this friendship to last any longer. The friendship quietly dissolved in 1999, ,when Elizabeth Eckford wrote “True reconciliation can occur only when we honestly acknowledge our painful, but shared, past” on the brick of Central High. This message confused Hazel. She said, “I just had hoped that I could show this picture and say, ‘This happened, and that happened, and now…’ and there is no ‘now’,” she said. “And that makes me sad. It makes me sad for them, it makes me sad for the future students at our school, and for the history books, because I’d like a happy ending. And we don’t have that.”[14]The two women have only spoken twice since, both times in 2001 (the first being a call to Eckford during 9/11),[6] though the Masseries sent a condolence card after Eckford's son was killed.[6]

When David Margolick met Elizabeth Eckford again in 2011, Elizabeth said "I wish I could tell her how much she helped me," she says. "I don't think I ever told her that."[15]

The pressure from different people grew too much on Hazel Bryan. David Margolick wrote in the article “The Many Lives of Hazel Bryan”: “She cut off ties with Elizabeth—for her, Sept. 11, 2011, marked another anniversary: 10 years had passed since they’d last spoken—and stopped making public appearances with her.” [16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bate, Daisy. The Long Shadow of Little Rock: A Memoir. American Decades Primary Sources. p. 134 Extra |pages= or |at= (help). 
  2. ^ Margolick, David. "Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan: the story behind the photograph that shamed America". The Telegraph. The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  3. ^ Margolick, David. "Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan: the story behind the photograph that shamed America". The Telegraph. The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  4. ^ Margolick, David. "Through a Lens, Darkly". Vanity Fair. Vanity Fair. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  5. ^ Margolick, David. "The Many Lives of Hazel Bryan". Slate. Slate. Retrieved 10 May 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c "Through a Lens, Darkly". Vanity Fair. 20 October 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2011. 
  7. ^ Margolick, Daivd. "Through A Lens, Darkly". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  8. ^ Margolick, David. "Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan: the story behind the photograph that shamed America". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  9. ^ Margolick, David. "Through A Lens, Darkly". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  10. ^ Happy old year — Thank you for 1997, editorial, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 1, 1998
  11. ^ Margolick, David. "Through A Lens, Darkly". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  12. ^ Margolick, David. "Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan: the story behind the photograph that shamed America". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  13. ^ Margolick, David. "The Many Lives of Hazel Bryan". Slate. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  14. ^ Margolick, David. "The Many Lives of Hazel Bryan". Slate. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  15. ^ Margolick, David. "Through A Lens, Darkly". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  16. ^ Margolick, David. "Through A Lens, Darkly". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 

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