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Elizabeth Eckford, outside of Little Rock Central HS1957 photo






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I do not imagine that the white and black races will ever live in any country upon an equal footing. but I believe the difficulty to be still greater in the United States than elsewhere.
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America. 1836.

With a very different lesson from the one this paper is designed to impress, the great Daniel Webster once told the people of Massachusetts that they "had conquered the sea, and had conquered the land," but that "it remained for them to conquer their prejudices."
Frederick Douglass, "The Color Line," 1881.

The photograph [of Elizabeth Eckford] rendered visible democracy's "public sphere," as it existed in 1957. The mob encircles Elizabeth in the street; she and they meet to contest the value of a political decision (Brown v Board of Education) before the public eye. In one quick instant, looking at photos of Elizabeth and Hazel, viewers saw, as we still do too, the skeletal structure of the public sphere, and also its disintegration. Once the citizenship of dominance and acquiescence was made public, citizens in the rest of the country had no choice but to reject or affirm it. The photo forced a choice on its U. S. viewers, and its power to engage the imagination lay in this. The picture simultaneously recorded a nightmarish version of a town meeting and, by presenting to a broad public the visible structure of segregation, elicited throughout the citizenry an epiphanic awareness of the inner workings of public life and made those mechanics the subject of debate. Even today, the photo provokes anxiety in its audience not merely about laws and institutions but more about how ordinary habits relate to citizenship. . . . the image of Hazel cursing Elizabeth raises the challenge not of laws but of ourselves: [translating the words of Rilke] you must alter your life.
Danielle Allen, Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v Board of Education. University of Chicago Press, 2004, p. 5.

I, Too

I, too sing America.
I am the darker brother.
/they send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I'll sit at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"
Then.

Besides,
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed -

I, too, am America.
Langston Hughes, 1932

portrait of Hughes by Winold Reiss
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