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Historical Photos: How Pictures Changed America (Civil Rights)

Overview

“Pictures can and do make a difference. Strong images of historical events do have an impact on society.” – American Civil Rights Era photographer Charles Moore

I used to work at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site as the Education Specialist. One very powerful picture I used often was of Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan. Elizabeth was an African American female student who volunteered to attend the all-white Central High School in 1957. Hazel was a Caucasian female student who did not agree with school desegregation at her high school. In the image, Elizabeth walks down the street unsure of why she is not allowed to be on campus. A group (or mob) forms behind her. In the picture, Hazel shouts and tells Elizabeth to “go back to Africa.”

The picture is widely known; when you search “Elizabeth and Hazel” online, the image is the first to be found. In the article “Civil Rights: How Pictures Changed America” by Frank Baker he discusses how photos can and have changed history. He states, “iconic still photographs have shocked the nation and influenced the decisions of important leaders.” The power of the image with Elizabeth and Hazel (and others) helped Americans all across the United States see the realities and reflect on what was happening in the South.

Read the Article

Pictures can be powerful, and in this article Frank Baker gives many examples from our shared history.

Reflection

  • How can national parks better use images to help visitors make meanings of the resource?
  • How can national parks encourage visitors to embrace the power of a photo?
  • How can educators in national parks encourage young visitors to take photos (and share these) with other visitors about their time in parks?
  • How can we encourage visitors to take action from the pictures these take and/or view?

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  1. Great article. This is why I love the NMAAHC’s More than a Picture exhibit. This is a good reminder for how we use photographs in our park programs and on social media.

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