Your History: Black Women who stood against racial discrimination and shamed America

There are certain history that should never ever be forgotten by black people living everywhere, as it shows the strength of certain individuals who stood against all forms of racial discrimination and prejudices to pave way for the current generation of black people.

Whiles big-shots like Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey, W E Du Bois, Thurgwood Marshall, Malcom X, Rosa Parks, etc., are celebrated for their staunch opposition against Jim Crow laws and racial discrimination, people should also remember others who suffered as victims and triumph over them.

The great African-American women who also made it in their own small way to contribute to the struggle and must never be forgotten are Elizabeth Eckford and Dorothy Counts. The racial discrimination against these two women actually caused a lot of international spectacle against America’s trumpeted accolade as the most democratic and free society in the world.

In an article written by Jefferson Thomas in 07 September 2010, and the other one in 9th October 2011, by David Margolick under the heading “Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan: the story behind the photograph that shamed America” in the Telegraph newspaper of UK, the two writers gave a graphic impression of how our black sister Elizabeth was doing all her best to get into her new black Little Rock central high school and the stiff opposition she faced from all white students there, especially from one vociferous female white student named Hazel Bryan.

Margolick writes that “on her first morning of school, September 4 1957, Elizabeth Eckford’s primary concern was looking nice. Her mother had done her hair the night before; an elaborate two-hour ritual, with a hot iron and a hotter stove, of straightening and curling. Then there were her clothes. People in black Little Rock knew that the Eckford girls were expert seamstresses; practically everything they wore they made themselves, and not from the basic patterns of McCall’s but from the more complicated ones in Vogue. It was a practice borne of tradition, pride, and necessity: homemade was cheaper, and it spared black children the humiliation of having to ask to try things on in the segregated department stores, and she thought Central would help her realise that dream.

On the television as Elizabeth ate her breakfast, a newsman described large crowds gathering around Central. It was all her mother, Birdie, needed to hear. “Turn that thing off!” she shouted. Should anyone say something nasty at her, she counselled Elizabeth, pretend not to hear them. Or better yet, be nice, and put them to shame. Lots of white people lined Park Street as Elizabeth headed towards the school. As she passed the Mobil station and came nearer, she could see the white students filtering unimpeded past the soldiers. To her, it was a sign that everything was all right. But as she herself approached, three Guardsmen, two with rifles, held out their arms, directing her to her left, to the far side of Park.”

Image: Bryan taunted and hooted at Elizabeth showing glaringly to her that blacks do not belong in their school. Elizabeth and Hazel, September 4, 1957 Photo: Will Counts Collection, Indiana University Archives.

Jefferson’s article chronicled the odyssey of hatred that was exhibited by Hazel towards Elizabeth and how the two women finally reconciled in their later years after school. He writes that “One girl, Hazel Bryan, looked livid, her face poisoned with hate. As Benjamin Fine of The New York Times later described her, she was “screaming, just hysterical, just like one of these Elvis Presley hysterical deals, where these kids are fainting with hysteria”. Her eyes narrowed, her brow furrowed, her teeth clenched, Hazel shouted: “Go home, nigger! Go back to A-”.

It is so refreshing that these two personalities were reconciled by a lawyer/writer and their story is comforting for us all. Kindly follow the rest of the story here: and get the copy of the book by David Margolick: “Elizabeth and Hazel”.

In the fall of 1957, Elizabeth was among the nine black students who were enlisted, then been selected, to enter Little Rock Central High School.

Central was the first high school in a major southern city set to be desegregated since the United States Supreme Court had ruled three years earlier in Brown vs Board of Education that separate and ostensibly equal education was unconstitutional.


Dorothy Counts was the first black student to be enrolled into Harding High School, Carolina. This 1957 image gives us an idea of the taunts and unnecessary humiliation she had to face during the time. What was once accepted as a part of social behaviour is today rightly condemned as racism. This image reminds us of what society was like, not too long ago.

On the morning of September 4, 1957, fifteen-year-old Dorothy Counts set out on a harrowing path toward Harding High, where-as the first African American to attend the all-white school -she was greeted by a jeering swarm of boys who spat, threw trash, and yelled epithets at her as she entered the building. Charlotte Observer photographer Don Sturkey

Where Are They Now?: Dorothy Counts

On the morning of September 4, 1957, fifteen-year-old Dorothy Counts set out on a harrowing path toward Harding High, where-as the first African American to attend the all-white school – she was greeted by a jeering swarm of boys who spat, threw trash, and yelled epithets at her as she entered the building.

Charlotte Observer photographer Don Sturkey captured the ugly incident on film, and in the days that followed, the searing image appeared not just in the local paper but in newspapers around the world.

People everywhere were transfixed by the girl in the photograph who stood tall, her five-foot-ten-inch frame towering nobly above the mob that trailed her. There, in black and white, was evidence of the brutality of racism, a sinister force that had led children to torment another child while adults stood by.

A week later, the girl in the photograph was gone. Her parents – having been told by the school administrators and police officials that they could not guarantee her safety – sent her to live with a relative in suburban Philadelphia, where she could peacefully attend an integrated school.

Rather than permanently quitting the city that failed her, she moved back three years later to earn her degree from Johnson C. Smith University and, except for a couple early years spent living in New York City, she has lived here ever since.

Elizabeth Eckford and Dorothy counts’ story must serve as a source of inspiration for every Black person living everywhere and should motivate them that no matter the odds against them, with just a little perseverance, success would be theirs. Black women should know that they are great and strong and that nothing can obstruct their aim of succeeding in life.

Our African history is filled with the heroic feats of women like Queen Sheba and Zewditu of Ethiopia, Ndola Ann Nzingha of Angola, Yaa Asantewaa of Ghana, etc., and that with both Eckford and Count’s did in the face of the massive discrimination and hatred was just the genetic expression of how hard our African women are.

Let us all celebrate them for they triumph in their quest for dis-segregation of schools.

What do you think?

Written by vozAfric


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