Little Rock Nine

little rock

According to the website, this photograph has come to be known as “The Scream Image.” The photo was taken by Will Counts at Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in September 1957 and currently resides in the Indiana University Archives. 
http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/civilrights/ak1.htm

The tension in this photo is palpable. Almost immediately your eyes go directly to the focal point of the photo, an angry young white teen scowling and screaming at the tenacity and freedom that this young African American lady represents. The photo is so iconic because it exemplifies a time in history where hatred plagued the nation, and civil rights separated people and ideas. The community of Little Rock and even Governor Faubus of Arkansas attempted to defy the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education when nine African American students were entering into an all white high school to get the education they deserved. Elizabeth Eckford is one of the nine strong African American teens who stood up for their right to education facing the wrath of those unaccustomed to equality. Examining this photograph provides a better understanding for the high stakes of emotion in every face. Displayed is not only anger from the crazy white lady or persistence from the powerful Elizabeth Eckford but the confusion and stern faces in the background of the picture. The saturation of the photo is black and white which not only shows the time period but also how the simplicity of absence of color illustrates the pain, hardships, and dark emotions that no colored photo could ever achieve. The emotion in this picture leaps off the page as the image captured the immense difficulty in taking steps toward overcoming segregation.

Lillianna Byington

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5 thoughts on “Little Rock Nine”

  1. This photo is incredibly powerful and certainly illustrates how isolated the nine African American students were. The juxtaposition between the hostility in the face of the white lady and the calmness of Elizabeth is eery. I think the lack of emotion amongst the rest of the crowd almost suggests a fear of going against the grain. What would happen if someone from the crowd stood up for Elizabeth? The one lady’s anger and passion is so apparent, what would it look like multiplied by 10 or even more? The unknown seems to loom over the crowd and thus they choose to go with popular opinion.

  2. I am most amazed by the courage displayed in this image. In a situation where one could easily react angrily and violently, it takes more courage and ability to ignore anger and hatred. The Little Rock Nine knew exactly what they were trying to accomplish, pushing integration on the south forcefully, but peacefully. I don’t know if I would be able to do what these brave few did, and I am amazed at their powers of self-control.

  3. Going off the comment about juxtaposition, you can also notice Elizabeth’s crestfallen facial expression if you zoom in. It almost looks like she is about to cry or is all ready crying. She is the only one in the photo with sunglasses on, hiding from the pain of the screams and violence going on around her. Sure, she does play a calm and cool act, but we do know how she really feels at the moment, and those glasses may represent her shield from the pain.

  4. The white teen who is screaming is the most interesting part of this photo to me. She is trying so hard to cling to the past and the segregation that she used to know. As she screams and this young black girl continues to walk into her all white school she realizes it isn’t stopping anything. Her scream is not only anger and hatred but fear of the unknown.

  5. This is an interesting post. I like the comments bringing attention to the bystanders and Elizabeth’s sunglasses. Elizabeth appears run-down and sad, yet numb to the emotional trauma she is experiencing. Her upper lip is stiffened as she walks through the mob, probably a result of her holding back tears and anger, as dyudis314 pointed out. The lady screaming at her appears hateful in all aspects of her facial expression. The juxtaposition between Elizabeth’s expression and this woman’s is heartbreaking and a good representation of the system of segregation around this time. A point I wanted to make is that the inclusion of the bystanders in this photo is vital in order to depict the flavor of racism in the late 50s. While not all southerners were actively degrading African Americans, many stood by passively and watched these things occur.

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