In all the documentaries over the years, it is invariably at [the] moment, when Elizabeth and the other eight ascend Central's stately stairs and walk through its grand wooden doors, that the music swells and the credits begin to roll: the story is over. In fact, the world only stopped watching. Within a few weeks Sputnik went up, and everyone had an excuse to look elsewhere. But for the Little Rock Nine, the mob didn't so much disperse as move inside the building. And the more the world looked away, the worse things got.
"Worse" for Elizabeth were things like being pelted with things like tomatoes, eggs, broken glass, "rock-filled snowballs" and a rain of sharpened pencils; being shoved and kicked and knocked down; being called "nigger" constantly (one boy sitting behind her muttered it all through history class); being scalded in the showers after gym when her classmates would coordinate to flush all the toilets at the same time; being taught by teachers claiming that "slavery actually civilized blacks" and "the Ku Klux Klan was founded to defend white womanhood"; being completely and utterly ignored.
There's more that is just as poignant from Elizabeth's current history — like the fact that her life's savings basically consist of her Congressional Gold Medal, worth about $35,000, which she has so far been unable to unload — and the friendship with Massery, late in life, is just part of it (but a fascinating part of it, how two faces immortalized in history grow up to forge some kind of uneasy understanding). Margolick calls it "one of the best things I've written," which is saying something. It's fitting to mark a 50-year anniversary with a reminder that it's been a long 50 years for the people who actually lived through it, and the story is still going on. One need only look back a week to the another number - the Jena 6 - to see that.
Through A Glass, Darkly [VF]