Information

The Story Behind the Famous Little Rock Nine ‘Scream Image’


You’ve probably seen the photo: a young African-American girl walks to school, her eyes shielded by sunglasses. She is surrounded by a hateful crowd of angry white people, including a girl caught mid-jeer, her teeth bared and her face hardened with anger. It’s one of the most famous images of the civil rights era, but it turns out that the story of the young women in the photo is even more complicated than the racial drama their faces portray.

Hazel Bryan was just 15 when the photo was taken, but her actions on September 4, 1957—and the hatred on her face—turned her into an infamous symbol of the bigotry of Jim Crow and the intolerance faced by the students who tried to go to school that day.

It was the first day of school in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Elizabeth Eckford, also 15 and the girl Bryan was screaming at, was headed to class at Little Rock Central High School. That fact alone was anything but normal: Eckford and eight other black students were recruits sent to the all-white school to test Arkansas’ supposed intention to integrate its schools.

Three years earlier, the Supreme Court ruled the segregation of public schools unconstitutional. But in a South ruled by the brutality of Jim Crow, many whites clung to segregation. Like other Southern states, Arkansas dragged its feet, and when the Supreme Court tried to force integration with a second landmark decision, the Little Rock school board decided it would integrate its schools over a period of many years.

Technically, Little Rock Central High School was to be the first to integrate. Eckford and her fellow black students were entitled to attend Central High under the law, but city officials gerrymandered the district in a way that would have forced the majority of black students to attend a different school than whites. The NAACP decided to defy those rules and desegregate Central High on its own. The group recruited students, then registered them at the school.

But on the first day of school, a mob of furious white people assembled to make sure they couldn’t get in. The black students had trained for this moment. But nothing could prepare Eckford for the screaming, taunting crowd that surrounded the school. They called out for her to be lynched and yelled slogans like “Two, four, six eight, we don’t want to integrate!” In the midst of the horde, reporters and photojournalists recorded the chaos.

Women in the crowd “shrieked in spasms, as tears flowed down their cheeks,” wrote one reporter. Screams of obscenities and slurs echoed through Eckford’s ears. A group of girls—including Bryan— “started to shriek and wail” as Eckford passed and headed toward the school. As she clutched a folder, trying to move forward, Bryan screamed at her and told her to “go back to Africa.”

Eckford and the rest of the Nine never made it into school that day. Acting on the orders of Governor Orville Faubus, Arkansas National Guardsmen stopped her at the door and she was chased away from the school by the mob. Later that month, after President Dwight Eisenhower intervened, Eckford and the other eight students went back to school escorted by members of the 101st Airborne and were finally allowed in.

The day after the incident, the photograph, taken by photojournalist Will Counts, ran on the front page of the Arkansas Democrat. It, and a similar wire photo taken by another photographer, quickly spread throughout the country. When Bryan received disapproving mail, her parents pulled her from the school.

Meanwhile, Eckford endured constant harassment and hatred inside the school she had helped integrate. She was spat upon, punched, hit with eggs and vegetables and faced with a barrage of slurs and insults all year long. Though Eckford managed to finish the school year, the bigots of Little Rock could not abide another year with integrated schools. Rather than repeat integration the next year, they shut down schools altogether.

But though Little Rock’s schools reopened—and finally integrated—the year after, the story didn’t end there. When Eckford, who moved to St. Louis soon after, visited Little Rock at age 21, she received a call from Bryan, who apologized. Then they went their separate ways again.

Eckford stayed silent about her ordeals for years and suffered from depression and trauma throughout her adult life. Bryan spent years atoning on her own, learning about the civil rights movement and becoming more racially conscious. In 1997, Will Counts, the photographer whose iconic shot was by then considered a defining document of a moment in the struggle for black equality in the United States, arranged for the two to meet in person. Forty years after Bryan screamed at Eckford, they reunited, reconciled and became friends.

Or did they? After a brief, warm friendship that saw them attend events and seminars together and even pose for a poster entitled “Reconciliation” that featured a modern-day photo of the pair outside Little Rock Central, their paths split again when they realized they could not truly reconcile. “True reconciliation can occur only when we honestly acknowledge our painful, but shared past,” said Eckford.

Though both Hazel Bryan—now Massery—and Elizabeth Eckford are still alive, it’s unclear if they will find that reconciliation during their lifetimes. Their journey from enemies to friends to tense acquaintances is a reminder of the lasting effects of America’s history, just as the photograph of two diametrically opposed girls shows just how far the nation has come.


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Little Rock School Desegregation

Three years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown v. Board of Education that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal, nine African American students—Minnijean Brown, Terrance Roberts, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Jefferson Thomas, and Carlotta Walls—attempted to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The students, known as the Little Rock Nine, were recruited by Daisy Bates, president of the Arkansas branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, Martin Luther King wrote President Dwight D. Eisenhower requesting a swift resolution allowing the students to attend school.

On 4 September 1957, the first day of school at Central High, a white mob gathered in front of the school, and Governor Orval Faubus deployed the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the black students from entering. In response to Faubus’ action, a team of NAACP lawyers, including Thurgood Marshall, won a federal district court injunction to prevent the governor from blocking the students’ entry. With the help of police escorts, the students successfully entered the school through a side entrance on 23 September 1957. Fearing escalating mob violence, however, the students were rushed home soon afterward.

Observing the standoff between Faubus and the federal judiciary, King sent a telegram to President Eisenhower urging him to “take a strong forthright stand in the Little Rock situation.” King told the president that if the federal government did not take a stand against the injustice it would “set the process of integration back fifty years. This is a great opportunity for you and the federal government to back up the longings and aspirations of millions of peoples of good will and make law and order a reality” (King, 9 September 1957). Aware that the Little Rock incident was becoming an international embarrassment, Eisenhower reluctantly ordered troops from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division to protect the students, who were shielded by federal troops and the Arkansas National Guard for the remainder of the school year. In a 25 September telegram, King praised the president’s actions: “I wish to express my sincere support for the stand you have taken to restore law and order in Little Rock, Arkansas.… You should know that the overwhelming majority of southerners, Negro and white, stand firmly behind your resolute action” (Papers 4:278).

At the end of the school year, Ernest Green became the first African American to graduate from Central High School. King attended his graduation ceremony. In honor of their momentous contributions to history and the integration of the Arkansas public school system, in 1958 the Little Rock Nine were honored with the NAACP’s highest honor, the Spingarn Medal.

Before schools opened in the fall of 1958, Faubus closed all four of Little Rock’s public high schools rather than proceed with desegregation, but his efforts were short lived. In December 1959, the Supreme Court ruled that the school board must reopen the schools and resume the process of desegregating the city’s schools.


Sources

Letter from Irene Ernhart (1956-1957), Indiana University President’s Office records, Collection C213, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.

Letter from Homer Porter (1956-1957), Indiana University President’s Office records, Collection C213, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.

“Hoosiers Answer Dixie’s Curbs.” Gary Post Tribune. (April 7, 1956).

Leibowitz, Irving, “What Price Sunshine…?”. The Indianapolis Times. (March 28, 1956).

“History - Brown v. Board of Education Re-Enactment.” United States Courts,


Little Rock, 50 Years Later

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the day the "Little Rock Nine" integrated the city's best public high school. Elizabeth Eckford, the black woman pictured above, now works as a parole officer in Little Rock. I've always wondered what became of Hazel Bryan (now Massery), the sneering white girl in the famous photo. Google spit out this nice story from 1998 in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

Hazel Massery drove Elizabeth Eckford home from Central High School in Little Rock on Sunday afternoon. It was no big deal, because the two women have become good friends since September 1997—as unlikely as that might seem four decades after their teen-age faces were frozen in a famous photograph epitomizing racial hatred.

[…]

The British TV crew also interviewed Indiana University journalism Professor Emeritus Will Counts. He took the 1957 Arkansas Democrat photo of an expressionless Eckford walking away from Central, hounded by a crowd of whites that included Massery (then Hazel Bryan) shouting, her face twisted in anger.

Counts arranged the Sept. 22, 1997, meeting of Eckford and Massery. His photograph of the two women smiling together ran on the front page of the next day's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. It came to symbolize the spirit of racial reconciliation that the 40th-anniversary Central desegregation commemoration was trying to project.

"It was the farthest thing from my mind that the photo shoot I set up would lead to a lasting friendship between Elizabeth and Hazel," Counts said Sunday. "I'd had a very difficult time persuading Elizabeth to even be photographed."

Massery, who lives in a rural area of east Pulaski County, said the relationship "wasn't something I ever expected to develop the way it has. I had called Elizabeth in 1962 and apologized for my hateful action. But that was the only contact we'd had until Will got us together."

The two women met for lunch in October 1997 and have seen each other regularly since then. They enrolled jointly in a 12-week course on race relations and have maintained contact with others who took part in that workshop.

"Both of us being mothers, it turned out we have a lot to talk about," Massery says. "We've gotten very comfortable with each other. Elizabeth doesn't have a car, so I'm her chauffeur when we go to things together."

MORE: Better, longer, more recent Vanity Fair article on the photo here.  Apparently, the two did reconcile, then drifted apart again after a series of public spats, and haven't spoken in years.  Not quite the redemptive story it first appeared to be.


The Story of Elizabeth Eckford, Who Became the Face of Desegregation 60 Years Ago

In 1957, a group of nine Black students enrolled in Arkansas’ Little Rock Central High School. They were to be the first Black students to attend the school. The group became known as the “Little Rock Nine.” On the first day of school, they faced a mob of angry protesters shouting and spitting on them and National Guard soldiers blocking their way. Eventually, the federal government stepped in to ensure the students could get to school safely. The difficulties the students faced didn’t end there, but the group stayed determined in the face of opposition. They helped break ground for others and ensure everyone would have equal opportunities for education.

Elizabeth Eckford became the most famous member of the “Little Rock Nine” due to a newspaper photograph of her that was published in 1957. Forty years later, she was in the newspapers again, as she delivered a speech at a reconciliation rally and even became friends with one of her tormentors from the original photo. Although their friendship didn’t last, a photo of the pair together became a symbol of how reconciliation can be possible.

Eckford is featured in the most famous photo of the “Little Rock Crisis” which was taken by newspaper photographer Will Counts. The photo was taken on the first day of the school year, September 4, 1957. It shows 15-year-old Eckford attempting to walk to school while being followed by an angry mob of White protesters.

Image source: Will Counts Jr. via Indiana University archives

Little Rock Central High School was desegregated due to the 1954 United States Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka where the court ruled that having separate public schools for Black and White students was unconstitutional. Schools were desegregated all across the country. In 1955, the Little Rock School Board drafted its plan for gradual integration that would begin in 1957. The NAACP then registered the “Little Rock Nine” to attend the high school. The students were selected based on their excellent grades and attendance records.

Some government officials publicly opposed the Supreme Court’s ruling, including the governor of Arkansas.

Several segregationist organizations had warned that they would hold protests at the school and block the students from entering. The governor called in the National Guard to support these protests and help keep the Black students out of the school.

Image source: history.com

Historians believe the governor’s decision was both politically and racially motivated. As he was campaigning for a third term, he likely called in the National Guard in an attempt to gain favor with the racist elements in the state.

The nine students had planned to arrive together, but the meeting place was changed at the last minute and Eckford’s family did not have a telephone. So, while the rest of the group gathered to use the school’s rear entrance together, Eckford walked up to the front entrance alone. There was a mob of about 400 people surrounding the school in addition to National Guard soldiers.

When Eckford tried to walk through the crowd, National Guard soldiers blocked her path. The mob surrounded Eckford and threatened to lynch her, and she ran away. The rest of the “Little Rock Nine” was also blocked from entering the school.

Image source: Time & Life pictures

For the following two weeks, the nine students studied from home. The mayor of Little Rock, Woodrow Wilson Mann, asked President Eisenhower to send federal troops to protect the students. At this point, President Eisenhower requested a meeting with the governor of Arkansas and asked him to respect the court’s decision.

The “Little Rock Nine” attempted to enter the school again on September 23. This time there was a mob of about 100 people, and the students successfully entered the school with the help of a city police escort. The next day, President Eisenhower sent elements of the 101st Airborne Division to protect the students from protesters.

Image source: Time & Life pictures

The president also took control of Arkansas’ National Guard. Soldiers were deployed there for the entire school year to ensure the Black students could enter safely. However, once inside the school, the “Little Rock Nine” were still subjected to harassment and physical abuse from other students. For instance, Eckford was once pushed down a flight of stairs, and another member of “Little Rock Nine” had acid thrown into her eyes.

The Arkansas governor continued to fight desegregation in the following years. In 1958, he ordered the closing of all of Little Rock’s four public high schools. But one year later, three members of the school board were replaced, and the new board started reopening the schools. The temporary closing of Central High School prompted Eckford to take correspondence and night courses, and she gained enough credits to earn her high school diploma. She later earned a BA in history from Central State University in Ohio. She has since worked as a newspaper writer, history teacher, welfare worker, and as an information specialist in the United States Army. She is currently a probation officer in Little Rock.

In the famous photos of the event, one teenage girl can be clearly seen screaming at Eckford. That girl was Hazel Bryan. Bryan and Eckford became friends 40 years later when they both attended an anniversary commemoration event. They posed for a “reconciliation” poster together. The photograph was taken by Counts, the same photographer who took the original image. But by early 2000, their friendship ended.

Image source:1,2

When the pair was interviewed by a writer in 1999, it showed their relationship became strained as Eckford believed Bryan hadn’t fully taken responsibility for her actions. During the interview, Eckford asked Bryan if she could remember how she felt or what her loved ones said when the photos of the event were first published. Bryan said it had not been worth remembering because the only reason for her behavior was attention-seeking. Bryan said she was “just hamming up and being recognized.”

When the “reconciliation” poster went into another round of printing, Eckford would only give permission if she was allowed to make an addition. A small sticker was added in the corner that read: “True reconciliation can occur only when we honestly acknowledge our painful, but shared, past.” – Elizabeth Eckford.
[sources: 1,2,3,4,5]


“Derek has an unnatural gift with drunk people. They become looser while also feeling like they really wanna explain things to him.”—Jeremy Konner, co-creator

The funniest narrator moments on Drunk History are the result of their inability to recall or regurgitate all of the information they have bouncing around inside their head. (“It’s like the weirdest test you’re ever going to take,” says Esposito.) As a result, the intimate and sober crew (Konner, Weitberg, line producer Melissa Wylie, the nurse, cameramen, and a soundman), stays silent while Derek drinks with the narrator, and doesn’t feed them any facts, at least to start. If at all possible, they avoid putting words in the narrator’s mouth. With beats to hit, the difficult job of extracting the story from the drunk person falls to Waters. He’s developed a reputation as a 𠇍runk whisperer.”
 
�rek has an unnatural gift with drunk people,” says Konner. “He’s very disarming. They become more natural. They become looser while also feeling like they really wanna explain things to him. There are times where I will step in for a second [from behind the camera] and I’ll ask them questions and I can tell the way they answer me is different. It’s possible it’s because I’m not drinking with them but they will act like I’m someone who’s supposed to know the answer already. Whereas with Derek they feel like they’re telling him for the first time and they are convincing him of things. He’s good at being extremely patient with them and playing confused even though he knows what’s going on.”
 
Story beats aside, the reliance on a drunk narrator for the majority of a segment’s audio can cause additional headaches. 𠇍uring the narration, there are a lot of audio issues,” says Konner. “People do not care about their lavalier mics anymore. They scratch them. Some people grab the boom mic from above or just lay on their stomach [cutting off sound to their mic].”

Depending upon how far gone somebody is, a narration shoot can take up to eight hours, footage which then needs to be edited down to a roughly six- to eight-minute story. Esposito’s only takes three. “I took a screenshot of the time and texted my fiancé a text saying, ‘I’m done and I’m not even drunk!’” she says proudly, but then adding, “The word ‘zorked’ got into the text because I was, in fact, hammered.”
 
Konner, who stepped out from behind the camera this season to narrate the story of the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the water theft from the Owens Valley (see the movie Chinatown), cannot claim such expediency.
 
“I was a fucking real mess,” says Konner, who transitioned from Manhattans, to straight whiskey, to shots of tequila.
 
“It proves that alcohol does the same thing to every human being,” says Waters, who directed him. “Jeremy has been doin’ this with me since the beginning. I couldn’t get him to say his fucking name: ‘Hello, I’m Jeremy Konner and today….’ He couldn’t do it. Alcohol makes you stupid.”
 
Still, it wasn’t as bad as the time when Duncan Trussell chased a six-pack with absinthe on the web series and ended up narrating the story of Nikola Tesla’s working relationship with Thomas Edison on the floor of his bathroom, in a pile of his own chunky pineapple pizza vomit.
 
“That was definitely the most fucked up I’ve ever seen anyone,” says Konner. “It was really gross and I was stuck in the bathroom filming. You can see me holding him, my arm reaching around and holding him in front of the toilet. It was just awful and he was blocking the door, so nobody could get in or out.”


The Civil Rights Movement

Through non violent protest, education and mobilisation, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s America aimed to achieve equal legal rights and greater social justice for black people. The movement was born out of a socio-political climate where segregation in public places, such as schools, restaurants and busses, was the norm, and protests against such treatment was often met with physical or legal retribution.

Magnum photographers followed the developments from the early days of segregation, through protests and rallies, as well as individual small yet vital gestures that would help lead to empowerment, such as the educating of illiterate African Americans to enable them to vote. Here, we present some of the milestone moments of the Civil Rights Movement as captured by Magnum Photographers.

Segregation and the Early Days of the Civil Rights Movement

In the early 1960s, Birmingham, Alabama was one of the most racially divided cities in the United States. Martin Luther King described Birmingham, Alabama as the most segregated city in the country. Black citizens faced legal and economic disparities, and violent retribution when they attempted to draw attention to their problems. Danny Lyon’s and Bruce Davidson’s images from the city in 1963 demonstrate the everyday segregation, as well as the force used by police on black protesters.


The Story Behind the Famous Little Rock Nine ‘Scream Image’ - HISTORY

Samoset Homework Calendar / Planbook April 2019

3 ELA
Aim all Classes: The Civil Rights Unit Project. Report to the Library

All Classe s Homework : Complete the 1950s Homework #3 Problems in a Time of Plenty. Due. Monday 4/8

5
Aim all Classes: The Civil Rights Unit Project. Report to the Library

Civil Rights Google Presentations :

All Classe s Homework: Complete the Civil Rights Movement Homework #3 Assignment. Due Tuesday 4/9

9
Aim all Classes: The Civil Rights Movement: The March toward Equality.

The Civil Rights Movement Inquiry Videos

Segregation
Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers
The NAACP
Brown v. Board of Ed
Plessy v. Ferguson
Thurgood Marshall
Integration
The Little Rock Nine
The Montgomery Bus Boycott
Rosa Parks
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

10
Aim all classes: What Made Nonviolent Protest Effective during the Civil Rights Movement?

All Classes Homework : Complete the Civil Rights Movement Homework #4 Assignment. Due Thursday 4/11

11
Aim all classes: What Made Nonviolent Protest Effective during the Civil Rights Movement?

12
Aim all classes: What Made Nonviolent Protest Effective during the Civil Rights Movement?

Nonviolent Protest
Mohandas Gandhi
Civil Disobedience
SCLC
Sit-ins and the SNCC
Freedom Riders
CORE
James Meredith and the U of Mississippi
Gov. George Wallace and the U of Alabama
Medgar Evars
Kennedy Speech on Civil Rights
The March on Washington "I Have a Dream" Audio Video (start at 3:00)

Cradle of Aviation Field Trip

17
Aim all Classes: The Civil Rights Movement: The Movement Continues

Freedom Summer
The Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Voting Rights Act of 1965
Malcolm X
Stokely Carmichael & Black Power
The Black Panther Party
Riots in the Cities.
King assassinated
Economic improvement?

18
Aim all Classes: The Civil Rights Movement: Other Groups Seek Rights

Women's Rights
The Equal Pay Act
NOW
The Equal Rights Amendment
Changes in eduation
Sandra Day O'Connor
Hispanic Americans
Cesar Chavez and Farmworkers
Puerto Rico
Cubans Arrive
Native Americans
Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968
AIM
Wounded Knee
Americans with Disabilities
LGBT Rights and Gay Marriage



All Classe s Homework: Create a QAD for the final exam Civil Rights Movement Essay.
Not done in 2017


History in a shoebox: New photographs of 1957 Central High discovered

Photograph by Walter Riddick Jr. Copyright Joanne Riddick. Printed by Rita Henry. SEPT. 4, 1957: Photographer Rita Henry made positives from Walter Riddick Jr.’s film she found, including this strip showing L.C. Bates (left frame, seated) and Elizabeth Eckford (right frame). Copyright Joanne Hamilton Riddick.

Rita Henry, a Little Rock photographer who’s exhibited widely, has taught classes in the art for 20 years. To help her students fine-tune their skills, she asks them to develop prints from negatives — good old-fashioned film.

It’s her experience that you shouldn’t just pitch old photos.

So a year ago, when she ran into Joanne Riddick, the mother of Rita’s friend John Haley, she asked Riddick if she ever stumbled across any negatives stashed away in the big family home she lives in on Hill Road to save them for her.

In March, Riddick, who’d been clearing out the attic in anticipation of a move, called Henry. She had shoeboxes full of film and pictures for her.

The pandemic had just reared its ugly head in Arkansas. Henry wasn’t teaching classes. She had a lot of time on her hands — enough time to go through a shoebox that once held Troylings high heels to look at photographs and film from the 1940s and 1950s shot by Riddick’s late husband, Walter G. Riddick: Brownie negatives. 35 mm film, Kodak Tri-X and Ansco Supreme. Negatives in Pinky’s Photo packets from Hall’s Drug Store, neither of which entities exists today. Girl Scout Council negatives. Small snaps of tanks and ships from what appear to be World War II bases.

Henry went through the box picture by picture, envelope by envelope. “It was a week or two before I got to the bottom,” she said. There she found loose, dirty negatives, uncut and flat. She didn’t look at them at first because she assumed they were in terrible shape.

But then she picked up a loupe and checked them out. There, in one of the 35 mm frames of two rolls of film that Riddick shot in 1957, was a photograph of a young Black teenager sitting on a bench and surrounded by people. Henry knew right away what she had: Shots of Central High on the day it was to be desegregated. A photo of Elizabeth Eckford, the member of the Little Rock Nine who arrived alone at school and suffered racist taunts by fellow students and onlookers. Shots of flatbed trucks and Army vehicles and Air National Guardsmen with rifles. Laughing students, apparently excited by the attention, the girls in skirts filled out with petticoats and crewcut boys in short-sleeved shirts. Onlookers, students and adults alike, packing Park Street in front of the school. A Chevrolet with a KATV sign on its rounded trunk.

Few are the Arkansas adults who have not seen famous shots of Eckford being shouted at on her way to school — Will Counts’ shot for the Arkansas Democrat is iconic — and then sitting petrified and staring straight ahead on a bus stop bench, surrounded by a crowd of reporters and students and adults. Riddick’s shot is taken from Eckford’s left, and shows a reporter in coat and tie leaning over to talk to her. There’s a glimpse of Grace Lorch, the teacher who chided the crowd for tormenting Eckford and escorted her to a bus and home, behind the bench. (For her trouble, Lorch and her family were the target of threats they eventually left not just Arkansas, but the country.)

Another of Riddick’s shots shows Terrence Roberts, another of the Nine, by what appears to be an Army vehicle Arkansas Gazette reporter Jerry Dhonau stands nearby. One shot captures Arkansas State Press publisher L.C. Bates, whose wife, Daisy, was shepherding the Nine’s entry into Central, seated on the bus stop bench before Eckford’s arrival.

An amazed Henry called Joanne Riddick to let her know what she’d found and ask what she should do with the film. Do what you want, was Riddick’s answer.

Because the pandemic had closed stores, Henry couldn’t get the photographic paper she needed to print the negatives. When she did, “I started printing each one by one, in order.”

Walter Riddick, whose father Walter Riddick Sr. served on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, was an assistant U.S. attorney when he made the photographs for the federal office. He was sent to Central High the mornings of Sept. 4-5.

Joanne Riddick, who married Walter Riddick in 1972, remembered what her husband told her about that day.

“They sent him out to see what he could find out ‘under cover,’ ” she said. (Riddick, 30 at the time he took the shot the film, had attended Central High several years earlier, but when he entered the school in that day on September in 1957, school registrar Ernestine Opie didn’t even look up when he entered the office, asking, “What do you want, Riddick?”)

In another surprising turn of events, when Joanne Riddick mentioned the film in a meeting in August with a UA Little Rock archivist, she learned the center had in its possession a report Walter Riddick had made of the trips to Central to make photographs. It had been in a box she’d previously donated to the UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture.*

In the statement, which he writes was “made in connection with an official investigation being conducted by the FBI,” Riddick, who was there with Assistant U.S. Attorney James Gallman, mentions seeing a “Negro boy about 16 years of age standing at the corner of the Central High School grounds” between two armored trucks. The boy was Terrence Roberts. After talking to guardsmen, Riddick reported, the boy walked away. The report continues:

“About the time the boy walked away, a number of persons who had been crowded around him, and others, ran Eastward across Park Street to a bench located at a bus stop on 16th Street immediately east of Park Street. On that bench was a small colored girl whose surname I later learned was ECKFORD. She was surrounded by some 30 to 40 people, most of whom appeared to be photographers or newsmen. On the fringes of this group, there were a number of people milling around, one of whom was vociferous in his advice to the crowd not to disclose anyone’s address. This same man kept shouting something to the effect that the country might as well be given away to the Communists.”

On Sept. 5, Riddick returned and climbed to the top of a military truck to observe the crowd. Among the crowd of 200 people standing in front of the school on Park Street were small groups of 30 to 50 individuals he described as “quite agitated.”

“Various persons in these groups were distributing mimeographed petitions. In my judgment, the members of these small groups had arrived at an emotional state that could have become quite dangerous on short notice.”

Henry has tried to identify people in the film. The identity of the man interviewing Eckford, seen in several of the shots, remains a mystery, as is the figure with a newsreel camera aimed at her.

Photographs of Eckford and the crisis at Central High are well known. In the scheme of things, how valuable are more photographs of an event that was covered in the pages of newspapers across the country, including Life magazine and other pictorial journals?

Very, said historian and editor of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas Guy Lancaster. “So many of the photographs used to represent the Central High crisis focus upon the drama of the specific individuals involved,” he said, “but these capture the scope of the crowds and give the viewer a sense of the chaos Faubus and his cronies unleashed upon Little Rock.”

Taking the photographs as the crisis unfolded would have been dramatic. Riddick, Henry said, “didn’t know what was going to happen. He was just there to watch.”

Henry has made copies of the negatives for her Blue-Eyed Knocker Photo Club to print and high-resolution scans to go with the originals for archival research.

“If the virus hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have had time,” she said.

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the materials were going to the Ottenheimer Library.


Watch the video: The Paratroopers Who Protected the Little Rock Nine Documentary (December 2021).