Warriors Don’t Cry

Growing up as a teenager, Melba Pattillo Beals had to fight one of the most
courageous wars in history. No, not a war that took place in the trenches of a
battlefield, but a war that took place in the halls of an American high
schoola war against color. Melba was one of nine black students who was
involved in one of the most important civil rights movements in American
history. These nine black students, known as the Little Rock Nine, were the
first to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, on
September 4, 1957. This was a major turning point for blacks all across the
United States and opened the way for other blacks to begin attending white
schools. Melba managed to survive her days at Central High School and wrote
about her extraordinary “battles” and experiences in her autobiography,
Warriors Dont Cry. Melba began her story with her childhood in Little Rock,
Arkansas. She lived with her mother, grandma, and brother in a strict and
religious household. Her family had come to accept the fact that they would
always be mistreated because of their color. In the South this mistreatment of
blacks was seen as perfectly normal, but Melba saw things a little differently.

As a young girl, she experienced first hand how awful it was to be segregated
against and be constantly ridiculed simply because of her color. Unlike most
people, though, she wanted to do something about it and prayed for an
opportunity that would allow her to fight back and hopefully make a difference.

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On May 17, 1954, Melbas opportunity began to emerge. The U.S. Supreme Court
ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional in Brown
vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. In spite of the Supreme Court ruling,
Arkansas did not begin to integrate its schools. Eventually, a federal court
ordered Central High School in Little Rock to begin admitting black students in
1957 in order to begin the states process of desegregation. Melba saw this as
the perfect chance to make a difference in her hometown. She was one of nine
courageous students who decided to try to attend the all-white Central High
School. Although all the students knew it would not be easy to be the first
black students to integrate, it was a lot more strenuous and difficult than
anyone of them had imagined. On the first day that they tried to attend Central
High School, they didnt even get into the school. There were thousands of
people from all over the country outside the school that morning. Most were
anti-segregationists trying to prevent the nine students from entering. As the
nine students walked past the angry mob and tried to enter the school, they were
stopped and turned away by National Guardsmen who had been sent by Orval Faubus,
the governor of Arkansas. Two weeks later President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent
1,000 federal troops to Little Rock to uphold the Supreme Courts decision and
allow the desegregation of Central High. As the year progressed, the nine
students went through a great deal of suffering and torture, but all stayed
strong and kept attending, knowing they were making a difference in the lives of
blacks all across the country. Melba Beals true account of the year she spent
at Central High is important reading for everyone. This was a war that had to be
fought for civil rights, and Beals book shows the tremendous struggle and
suffering she and the eight other students went through. Beals portrays very
well the hatred and corruption of the white citizens of Little Rock throughout
the book and gives the reader a good glimpse of what it was like to be in her
shoes. Every day during the school year, the Little Rock Nine were harassed
relentlessly. They would get their books and jackets stolen, have rocks thrown
at them, be tripped, pushed into corners and beaten repeatedly. Not only did the
teachers let all of this happen, but they joined in on some of the name-calling.

The students even feared for their lives at times. One such event took place
when a white student and a group of his friends came charging across a field
yelling at Melba, threatening to hang her. In other instances, the nine black
students received bomb threats at their homes and death threats against their
family members on a regular basis. Not only did the desegregation of Central
High School jeopardize the nine students lives, it also


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