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.

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]

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.[1]

By 1998 she was working with young black mothers-to-be and minority students, in part to make amends for her past actions, as well as because she was irked by being permanently represented in the media by a single photo. However, as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of Central High's integration, Will Counts wanted to take a second photo symbolising reconciliation; Massery agreed and was reintroduced to Eckford. The two swiftly became friends, spending time together to the point that she joked she was Eckford's chauffeur.[1]

She appeared with Eckford and the rest of the Little Rock Nine on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and at the 40th Anniversary Celebration of integration at Central High. [2] 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."[3]

Soon after, the friendship began to fray 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." Massery also began to revise parts of her story to present the photo as an isolated incident (when she'd been involved in racist dialogue after it) and attempted to avoid implicating her family as a source of racial views. The friendship quietly dissolved in 1999, and she retreated from the public eye, speaking of her public actions as a mistake. The two women have only spoken twice since, both times in 2001 (the first being a call to Eckford during 9/11),[1] though the Masseries sent a condolence card after Eckford's son was killed.[1]

Since the friendship ended, Eckford has spoken of Massery as being exhibitionist and profiteering, and a "born-again bigot."[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Through a Lens, Darkly". Vanity Fair. 20 October 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2011. 
  2. ^ Louis P. Masur, "Blacks, Whites, and Grays," Chronicle of Higher Education, October 16, 2011 [1]
  3. ^ Happy old year — Thank you for 1997, editorial, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 1, 1998

External links[edit]