Journalist discusses legacy of ‘black and white’ photo at FDU
David Margolick, Vanity Fair contributing editor, reads from his book "Elizabeth and Hazel: Two women of Little Rock," and discusses the iconic black and white photograph that led him to the 12-year writing project. (Photos by Dan Landau)
By Kenna Caprio
Paula Jones refused to talk to him. It was 1999 and he was supposed to be interviewing her in Little Rock, Arkansas. Instead, Vanity Fair contributing editor David Margolick stumbled into what would become a 12-year book project, all because two photographs — one black and white, the other of a “more recent vintage,” stared him in the face in Little Rock.
Margolick spoke yesterday at the College at Florham on his most recent book “Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock,” which is the story behind that iconic black and white photograph taken in 1957. It features a lone black girl walking to school, a mob surrounding her, and a teenage white girl, whose face is contorted in anger.
“(It) encapsulates not just what happened in Little Rock, but the civil rights movement,” says Margolick.
The group of nine African-American students who enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957, the beginning of integration, includes Elizabeth Eckford.
The second photograph that caught the writer’s eye that day shows those two women, Eckford and Hazel Bryan, “looking like old friends,” 40 years after newspaper photographer Will Counts snapped the first picture.
Margolick realized, as he stood examining the pictures, that he had a “more interesting story than Paula Jones,” to tell. Without talking to an editor or publisher, he decided to write the story of both women.
“I thought as a journalist, ‘How did this ever happen?’ How did we get from the first picture to the second?” Margolick recounts.
In 1962, five years after the integration of the Little Rock Nine, Bryan picked up the phone and called Eckford to apologize. “‘I’m the girl in the picture and I just want you to know how sorry I am,’” she said, according to Margolick.
The book details that fateful day in 1957 and the relationship between Eckford and Bryan since.
“Writers like to find stories that are more complicated than meets the eye,” Margolick tells the audience of students, faculty, staff and visitors.
Lucky for him, Margolick found that complicated story, featuring two women unintentionally thrust into the civil rights discussion. Two women, he says, who he respects and is proud to know.
The event, part of the "Politics on the PublicMind" series, also tied into the University's celebration of Black History Month. "Politics" continues next week at 3:30 p.m. in Lenfell Hall, Hennessy Hall with speaker Franklyn Jenifer, president emeritus of the University of Texas and member of FDU's Board of Trustees.