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A Life is More Than a Moment: The Desegregation of Little Rock's Central High Hardcover – August 1, 1999

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The world has often heard about the desegregation crisis at Little Rock Central High School in 1957-58, and many have wondered how such a conflict could have exploded in that small Southern city, which heretofore had been noted for moderation. The author reveals that only five days after the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown decision, the Little Rock School Board announced it would end the segregated school system. Within a year, the board adopted a plan to integrate in stages. Photographer and author Counts, who had just started working as a photographer for the Arkansas Democrat, one of the town's two dailies, presents here his recollectionsAand photographsAof the event that put Little Rock on the map in the worst light. In this spare and accurate account, he makes a case for why the tragedy might never have occurred were it not for a governor, Orval Faubus, determined to resuscitate a flagging career by playing the race card to the hilt. Counts relates Faubus's refusal to allow black students to enter Central High until President Eisenhower sent in troops to enforce integration; the next year, Faubus closed all the high schools for a year until a court order forced them to reopen. This probing recollection is almost a primer of how one man disrupted a community for years to come. [The reviewer was a senior at Little Rock Central High during the desegregation crisis.AEd.]AEdward Cone, New Yor.
-AEdward Cone, New York
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

As a new photographer with the Arkansas Democrat, Counts was sent to cover the desegregation of his alma mater, Central High School in Little Rock, in 1957. His ties to the town and to the school helped him blend in and take stunning photos of the social upheaval that resulted when the nine enrolling black students faced virulent resistance by most white citizens, including the governor, Orval Faubus. The text includes interviews with some of the black students integrating the school, including Elizabeth Eckford, a black girl tormented by the mob. Among the essays is one by Hazel Bryan, who was captured by Counts' camera jeering Eckford in a photo that portrayed Bryan in that moment as the "poster child of the hate generation." Counts also photographed the fortieth anniversary commemoration of the race crisis in Little Rock. This book is a powerful and moving reminder of a painful time in U.S. history and the lingering legacy of racism. Vanessa Bush
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 76 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press (August 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253336376
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253336378
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 0.6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,815,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book to accompanying the book my high school classes are currently reading, "Warriors Don't Cry." As a high school teacher, I realize that students are likely to more fully engage with a novel when they feel they can truly relate to the story and when they are able to imagine all that is happening. "A Life is More Than a Moment" makes this possible! As we read the novel, I share pictures from this text with my students. They love this book. Often they ask to read this book even on their own, excitedly reporting their newfound knowledge with their classmates. I would definitely recommend this book for someone who is intersted in seeing the real thing.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Little Rock was the first time since reconstruction that federal troops had been mobilized top protect Blacks seeking to exercise the rights they allegedly won in the aftermath of the Civil War. The terror, hatred, and brutality of the times is searingly captured by the iconic photo which gives the book its title--of a young white student screaming, her face contorted, at an equally young black girl. Equally appalling is the other major picture which forms the center of this work--a series showing the mob attacking a black reporter, and beating him with no one willing to intervene.
While the book would be worthwhile for the pictures alone, it is all the more compelling by bringing the story up to date. Centered around the fortieth anniversary of desegregation of Little Rock High School, the author tracks down both the black student and the white student spewing hatred. There are pictures of them together, having gone through a process of healing and reconciliation.
The ultimate question--why such hatred--is not answered, nor could it be, given the format and limitations of what is, af4er all, basically a book of narrated pictures. But the question is certainly raised and explored.
This is a great book and should be on the shelf of anyone who loves photography or wants to understand why the Civil rights movement was so important to the history of this country (although I would strongly urge that no one take the advice f the other reviewer, and use this as the primary source for information on this struggle).
My only criticism is that the upbeat tone of this volume needs to be questioned. As James Meridith has said--If a black man can be kicked ten times in open view, and has no redress, is it really "improvement" if he is only kicked nine times, but still has no redress? Is Little Rock really free of prejudice and discrimination? Is America?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a thoughtful summary of the events of the 1957 Central High Crisis, especially for those who don't have the time or inclination to delve into the details but want to know all about the history behind the crisis and the events at that time. What makes the book even more interesting is that the authors take you inside Central High School forty years later so that the reader can see the life and times of a academically successful and fully integrated CHS today. Of course, one of the greatest contributions are the photographs by the late Will Counts -- awarding winning photography that carries you back in time. I highly recommend the book for students over age 12 and anyone who desires an accurate account of this shameful yet historic civil rights event.
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I had expected a book of photographs of the crisis. In reality less than a third of the book is devoted to this. I had expected more explanation of these images, from a photographer's vantage point, in order to put them into historical and personal perspective. Only a handful of the images did that.

While this book might be of some interest to someone who has little to no knowledge about this event, anyone approaching it with some prior understanding will find the text to be elementary and the quantity of photos scant. The writer's goal was to draw a comparison between the Little Rock Central of 1957 and of the present. The average reader isn't really going to care what the school looks like now--or at the very least, that subject could have been covered in a page or two. Instead there is as much or more devoted to that as there is to the events of the crisis.

As a book of photography (what I had been looking for--and what I would imagine most others would be seeking), it fails pretty miserably, instead taking off down paths with lots of verbose essays. Clearly Counts didn't have enough photos of the original event to fill up a book--even one that is just 104 pages.
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