The Little Rock Nine



Brown v. Board of Education


In the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision, issued May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation of America’s public schools was unconstitutional.

Their attendance at the school was a test of Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional. On September 4, 1957, the first day of classes at Central High, Governor Orval Faubus called in the Arkansas National Guard to block the Black students’ entry into the high school. Later that month, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent in federal troops to escort the Little Rock Nine into the school.

What is the significance of the Brown v Board of Education of Topeka decision?

“On May 17, 1954, the Court declared that racial segregation in public schools violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, effectively overturning the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision mandating “separate but equal.” The Brown ruling directly affected legally segregated schools in twenty-one states.”

How did the Brown vs Board of Education impact society?

“The legal victory in Brown did not transform the country overnight, and much work remains. But striking down segregation in the nation’s public schools provided a major catalyst for the civil rights movement, making possible advances in desegregating housing, public accommodations, and institutions of higher education.”


How did the Brown v Board of Education decision influence the civil rights movement Quizlet?

“Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was the spark that got the Civil Rights movement going in the 1950s and ’60s. The Supreme Court ruled that desegregation in the public schools was not constitutional and that gave new impetus to the civil rights movement.”


When nine African American students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas in 1957, the event became known as the ‘Little Rock Crisis’. The students were initially prevented from entering the racially segregated school by Orval Faubus, the state governor. Small printed flyer. Black text on white paper. It reads [IF YOU WANT TO KEEP / OUR SCHOOLS SEGREGATED / VOTE / FOR REMOVAL / OF LAMB / MATSON / TUCKER / AGAINST REMOVAL / OF LASTER / McKINLEY / ROWLAND / THE MOTHER’ LEAGUE / P.O. Box 3321 / Little Rock, Arkansas]. Artist Unknown. (Photo by Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – CIRCA 1959: African American boy watching a group of people, some carrying American flags, march past to protest the admission of the “Little Rock Nine” to Central High School. (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

“They were harassed by their fellow students and even threatened. One of the students, Melba Pattillo, wrote in her book, Warriors Don’t Cry, about how the attacks even involved acid and sticks of dynamite.”


Elizabeth Eckford

Students of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., including Hazel Bryan, shout insults at Elizabeth Eckford as she calmly walks toward a line of National Guardsmen in this Sept. 4, 1957, file photo. (Will Counts/File/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)


Elizabeth and Hazel, September 4, 1957 CREDIT: Photo: Will Counts Collection, Indiana University Archives

“In the years that followed, Massery would have a change of opinion. She became a supporter of the civil rights struggle and realized how far she had gone wrong. She apologized to Eckford in 1962 or 1963. She didn’t stop there, though. She left her prejudiced church, participated in initiatives that helped disadvantaged Bl-ack students and single Bl-ack mothers, read Cornel West and Shelby Steele’s writings, and debated with her parents about racial inequality.”

“Much of the moment was captured in a single photograph, but not all of it. We witness Eckford being pursued by a mob of enraged White supremacists, but we don’t see them shouting, “Lynch her! Lynch her!” We can see the Arkansas National Guard, but we can’t see President Eisenhower ordering federal forces to enter the building weeks later. Although we see Elizabeth Eckford walking with confidence and a high head, we don’t see the guts and determination it took her not to walk through a crowd of people who were threatening to kill her for going to school.” – Kerry White

Image credit: Vintage Everyday

“Eckford attempted to return home after being denied entry to the school, but she was unable to do so owing to the 250 or so irate white people who had gathered behind her at the bus stop where she had been left off. She made the decision to try to get to the next bus stop, which was a block away.

Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan:

the story behind the photograph that shamed America


“What about the student in the photo who is yelling at Eckford?

Hazel Bryan was her given name before she changed it to Hazel Massery.” – Kerry White

“Her parents were openly racist, and she was the daughter of such parents.”

Hazel Bryan Massery (born 31 January 1942) was a student at Little Rock Central High School during the Civil Rights Movement. She was depicted in an iconic photograph made by photojournalist Will Counts showing her shouting at Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, during the Little Rock Crisis.

Little Rock High School
On September 4, 1957, nine African-American students entered Little Rock Central High School as the school’s first black students, including Elizabeth Eckford. On her way to the school, a group of white teenage girls followed Eckford, chanting “Two, four, six, eight! We don’t want to integrate!” One of these girls was Hazel Bryan. Benjamin Fine of The New York Times later described her as “screaming, just hysterical, just like one of these Elvis Presley hysterical deals, where these kids are fainting with hysteria.” Bryan is also credited as shouting, “Go home, nigger! Go back to Africa!”

After the photo became public, Hazel started to receive “critical” mail, mostly from the North. Author David Margolick wrote that while Hazel only found the criticism “surprising”, “Hazel’s parents found her sudden notoriety sufficiently alarming to pull her out of the school.”

Bryan left her new school when she was 17, married Antoine Massery, and began a family. After that, her attitude toward Martin Luther King Jr. and the concept of desegregation changed. “Hazel Bryan Massery was curious and reflective… One day, she realized, her children would learn that the snarling girl in their history books was their mother. She realized she had an account to settle.”

In 1963, having changed her mind on integration and feeling guilt for her treatment of Eckford, Bryan contacted 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.

During the time after Little Rock, Hazel had become increasingly political, branching out into peace activism and social work. David Margolick discovered, “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.”

Bryan hoped her reputation could be gained back, but this did not happen until the 40th anniversary of Central’s desegregation in 1997. Will Counts, 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.

Friendship with Elizabeth Eckford
Despite feeling awkward when they first met, Eckford and Bryan surprisingly became friends afterward:

They went to flower shows together, bought fabrics together, took mineral baths and massages together, and 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; it was awkward for Elizabeth, who had a hard time explaining to people just how poor she was.
Soon after, the friendship began to fray. In 1999, David Margolick traveled 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.” Eckford began to believe Bryan “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.” The other eight of the Little Rock Nine did not 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 affected their friendship. The principal of Central High School stated “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 added, “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.”  [Wikipedia]


Dorothy Counts


Dorothy Counts at 79

A Walk of Faith

1957 – The Re-Visit