1956 Martin Luther King "Montgomery Story" Comic Book
front cover - 01 - 02 - 03 - 04 - 05 - 06 - 07 - 08 - 09 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - back cover --- about the MLK comic book --- click for spanish version of this page

 
 

 

Date Correction on the MLK Comic Book

An anonymous reader writes in:

Regarding your Martin Luther King, Jr. comic book: Though you state it was published in 1956 (when the Montgomery bus boycott ended), it could NOT have been published before at least the fall of 1957. The reason is that on page 13 of both English and Spanish versions (second scene), it depicts a famous incident that occurred here in Little Rock on September 4, 1957, at the start of the Central High crisis.

Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, was going to Central High by herself on that day. Since her family didn't have a telephone, she wasn't aware that the rest of the Nine were going to school as a group, accompanied by ministers and their mentor Daisy Bates; she also wasn't aware that the Arkansas National Guard had been ordered by Gov. Orval Faubus to keep them out of school. (The rest of the Nine were turned away peacefully on that day.) Eckford walked to school from a city bus stop nearby, initially unaware of the angry mob and Guardsmen gathered outside the school.

As Eckford attempted to go to school (before being turned away by the Guardsmen), she was shouted at and spat upon by the mob. One particular white teenage girl was caught screaming angrily at her in both television footage and at least two famous photographs of the day; that is the scene depicted in the comic book. The teenager was unidentified for 40 years; she was eventually identified as Hazel Bryan, now Hazel Massery. (She and Eckford have been friends for years.) Eckford is the girl with glasses on the right; Massery is the girl screaming in the background. (The boy in the comic doesn't appear in any of the pictures I've seen.)

After an abortive attempt to enter on September 23, the Nine finally entered Central High on September 25, escorted by the 101st Airborne Division under orders from President Eisenhower. The President also federalized the Arkansas National Guard, and the same Guardsmen who kept the Nine out on that first day protected them for the rest of the school year after the 101st pulled out.

There are other indications that the comic was published in late 1957 or early 1958: It spends most of page 8 and all of page 9 on incidents in Montgomery after the end of the bus boycott on December 21, 1956; that much material could not have been inserted into a comic book in 10 days or less without computerized printing technology, which wasn't available in the 1950's. Also, the text on page 13 refers to "the schoolgirl in Little Rock", clearly Eckford (though I'm not sure if the quote is properly attributable to her), and is written as if the incident is still fresh in the minds of readers; though there were Central High-related court and school-board actions before September 1957 (and there were other integration incidents elsewhere in Arkansas as early as 1955), none fit those specific words before this incident. Finally, it makes no mention of Faubus' closing all Little Rock public schools for the 1958-59 school year to prevent integration (which was reversed by the "law-abiding white citizens" of Little Rock, much like in Montgomery but with little if any violence); thus it was probably published between the fall of 1957 and the summer of 1958.

All of these facts can be checked by searching the Web. A Yahoo! search on Eckford's name turned up several good sites with details on the incident; I suspect you could also use the names of Hazel Massery and Will Counts (who took perhaps the best-known photo of the incident, and also was involved in the disclosure of Massery's identity in 1997).


Thank You - We appreciate this comment.

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image this letter is referencing:

Hazel Massery (shown at left) screaming at Elizabeth Eckford, 1957
Photo by Will Counts

 


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