Editor’s note: Eric Coulbourne is GCPL’s Bainbridge Branch’s Manager. His latest review is of Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick. Eric’s most recent blog post was of his adventure to Broadway to see Bette Midler in “Hello Dolly.” 

Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock

I like to read books that coincide with specific months throughout the year. In honor of MLK Day, Black History Month and Women’s History Month I chose to read Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick. I imagine anyone reading this post has done something in their past that they have regretted or are ashamed of, whether it be something small or something more substantial. On the other hand, I am sure that we have all had moments that required us to be brave, and face something that scares or upsets us.

But what if either of these experiences shaped your entire life, and followed you for the rest of your life? Elizabeth and Hazel recounts the history of one such moment. I am sure almost everyone in America has seen the famous photograph of Elizabeth Eckford (one of the Little Rock Nine) and Hazel Bryan taken on September 4, 1957 as Elizabeth Eckford tried to enter Little Rock Central High School. The photograph taken by Will Counts has become an icon of the historic Civil Rights Era in America. It depicts Elizabeth walking toward the school, where she would not be admitted, and Hazel, mouth agape, shouting at her.

In this book, Margolick shares the background of the two young women in the photo and the events that led up to the moment when the photo was taken. He delves into the women Elizabeth and Hazel became and how this one moment caught on film followed them throughout their lives. The most fascinating thing about this book is that Elizabeth and Hazel came together again after more than thirty years to reconcile and form a relationship.

This book sparks many questions for the reader: What does reconciliation mean? What is my definition of forgiveness? Even if forgiven by the person you offended, can you ever truly be lifted of the burden of what you have done? So much of history has been explained and defined by photographs and videos without ever truly knowing what the subjects of the photograph or video were thinking in that moment. Nor do we often get insight into the backgrounds of such subjects.

This book explores many moral, social, and racial issues along with the naiveté of the young. This is an excellent book for anyone who loves history and has an interest in hearing the “untold” stories.   

Eric is currently reading Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram.