Civil RightsHistory

Hazel Bryan

Hazel Bryan was a white high school student in Little Rock, Arkansas, who gained notoriety for her role in the Little Rock Nine crisis of 1957. Bryan was photographed shouting at Elizabeth Eckford, one of the nine African American students who were attempting to desegregate Little Rock Central High School.

On September 4, 1957, a federal judge ordered the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School, which had previously been an all-white institution. Nine African American students were chosen to integrate into the school, and on September 23, 1957, they attempted to attend classes. However, a white mob gathered outside the school to prevent them from entering, and the Arkansas National Guard was called in to maintain order.

These nine teenagers integrated the white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. They were kicked, ridiculed, threatened, called every name, spat on, ignored, and had acid thrown in their faces. Bottom row (L-R): Thelma Mothershed, Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Gloria Ray; Top row (L-R): Jefferson Thomas, Melba Pattillo, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls, Daisy Bates (NAACP President), Ernest Green, 1957.

As the nine students attempted to enter the school, Hazel Bryan and other white students shouted at them and harassed them. Bryan’s confrontation with Elizabeth Eckford was captured in a photograph that appeared in newspapers around the world. The image showed Bryan screaming at Eckford, who remained calm and composed.

Elizabeth Eckford (right) attempts to enter Little Rock High School on Sept. 4, 1957, while Hazel Bryan (left) and other segregationists protest.

The photograph of Bryan’s confrontation with Eckford became a powerful symbol of racial tension and segregation in the United States. In the aftermath of the Little Rock Nine crisis, Bryan apologized to Eckford and became an advocate for civil rights. She later attended college and became a history teacher.

Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan Massery at Little Rock Central High School in 1997.

In 1997, the two women were reunited in a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine crisis. They hugged and posed for photographs together, and Bryan again apologized to Eckford for her actions. The two women went on to speak publicly about their experiences and the importance of racial reconciliation.

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