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Melba Pattillo Beals- A junior when she entered Central High School, Melba did a lot of growing up that year. With the Supreme Court overturning their decision, the same day of that decision, on her way home from school she was attacked and almost raped. She endured a lot of harassment that year. She got her heels stepped on between every class and was singed by the water when she tried to shower after gym class. She had all her clothes sprayed on by ink and she got her eyes sprayed with acid which caused her to have to wear glasses. That same year she lived through what was supposed to be the happiest time of a girls live. She got her first boyfriend and had her first date, but all she could ever think about was how she was going to make it through her next day. Although eventually she did happen to make a friend (Link) that helped her by telling her places to avoid, he could not be seen in public with her. That year Melba turned 16 and though that year she had nobody attend her party due to the fact that they were scared to come over to her house due to all the bomb threats everybody especially the Little Rock Nine were receiving. Everyday became a struggle for Melba, she woke-up, got dressed and went to school were she tried to make herself not seen to avoid the harassment, then she had to give interviews to reporters (which she had determined that that was her future job), and then went home to an endless ringing phone from threats or plain old hang ups. That year she had to due without a lot of the teenage things, once her friend Minnijean was expelled, she had no one to talk to, at home or at school. After that terrible year Melba spent at Central, she did not return there for her senior year. Instead, she went to stay at the home of Dr. George McCabe and his wife Carol in the Santa Rosa, California.
Dr. Lois Peyton Pattillo (Mother Lois)-Giving birth to a sick baby the same day that Pearl Harbor was bombed started the life of Melba Pattillo Beals. Mother Lois was one of the first African American to integrate the University of Arkansas where she received her master’s in education. She worked as a seventh grade English teacher and was the main source of income for her family.
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India Anette Peyton (Grandma India)-She watched two people close to her be vulnerable to physical pain, just to help the future generations. She watched and supported Mother Lois integrate the University of Alabama and Melba integrate Central High School. She stayed at home and help support the family in their times of need. She always had a comment that would make everything seem not so important in the long run. She always kept the Lord’s name close at heart and let nobody forget it. She stayed up nights protecting the house and scaring away would be assailants. Although she never graduated from school, Grandma India helped Melba be a better student by reading to her and keeping her mind in the right track. Without her support and guidance to keep everybody sane, the year Melba spent in Central would have been the last for the family.
Warriors Don’t Cry:
The era of the 1950’s was a time where African Americans were not allowed to use the same public facilities as whites. This book, Warrior’s Don’t Cry, takes place in this era. The doctrine of “separate but equal” facilities had just been overruled. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas just set a new precedent that would integrate schools on May 17, 1954. In the book you go through the time period in which those nine students were sent into Central High School not knowing what to expect and barely coming out of there alive. Their first year (1957-1958) in Central High School was a time for growing for those nine students. The book deals with all the problems the US had with the citizens accepting the civil right laws that were changing and what they had to do to make things work out. At the end, they give you a 30 year look back upon what impacts that year had on those nine individuals that gave away their teenage years of happiness to help the country deal with that problem.
The book Warriors Don’t Cry written and experienced by Melba Pattillo Beals describes the story of the first nine African American students to attend the solely white Central High School. When the Supreme Court overturned their ruling on Plessy v. Ferguson, stating that “separate but equal” schools were not constitutional this started the process of integrating the schools. When nine students, Melba Pattillo Beals (junior), Minnijean Brown (junior), Carlotta Walls, Gloria Ray, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Roberts, Ernest Green (senior), and Thelma Mothershed were chosen (they also volunteered by signing up for this task) for their grades as well as their enrollment to their prior school, everything thing seemed in place.
With the arrival of the first day of school came, the nine of them had met previously to decide that it would be better if they came in as a group and not alone. That day governor Faubus had ordered the Arkansas’s National Guard to not allow the process of integration to continue. That morning Melba and her mother were not able to find their group, once they were denied entrance to the school by the National Guards, they were left facing an angry mob that was waiting to stop the “Negroes” from entering their school at any cost. This was only the first day they attempted to come in. When finally allowed to enter the school (only after President Eisenhower sent in the respected 101st Airborne division to protect and ensure that no life threatening injuries were sustained) the nine of them faced horrible treatment by their fellow students and by their teachers. None of them had any classes with each other and had to endure physical as well as emotional torture from everybody. All nine of them were physically abused; they were kicked, pushed down the stairs, punched and threatened with weapons. They also had to endure the harsh words that they were being called, and everyday they had to go home with their cloths ruined because they had been sprayed with ink. Although it was rare, they did have some people who were pleasant to them, but this rarity quickly faded when then they were the targets of abuse. White students and their parents had meetings to speak about and makes plans on how to get rid of them. When Minnijean was expelled from school, for having poured chili on one of her attackers, they saw this as a possible means of getting rid of all of them. The attacks got worst when the 101st guards were taken away and the Arkansas’s National Guards (they one first hired to not allow them in) where replaced and now they were responsible for their safety. The attacks came part of all, now eight, of their lives. This went on all year and got even worse with the prospect of one of them getting to wear the same robe as them at graduation. At the end, Ernie became the first African-American to receive a diploma from Central High School. After many legal troubles to get them back in for their senior year, Carlotta Walls and Jefferson Thomas became graduates from Central High School.
Although I already knew how bad African Americans were treated during the period of adjustment, I just was not aware of the disregard the authorities that were hired to protect those individuals in danger had towards them. I also was not aware that even after President Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne Soldiers that they still had problems with keeping the students in the school. I was glad to see that one person (Link) was there to help her survive through the year but I was surprise to hear that it was just one person. I had come to believe that others would have come to their aid.
Although the author did a very good job describing the pain and torture that she went through her year at Central, I was not clear upon her later years. She described that she was one of the first to room in a residence hall but she did not describe anything about it. She was also very vague on the NAACP’s role in the whole ordeal. She talked about their legal problems a little bit but I was not clear what finally happened to them.
The one major gap that I felt should have been covered more was the role of the brother and the problems he went through as well. Living with one of the most famous people at that time most of had some affects upon him, and throughout the whole book, she only slightly mentioned him in little bits. Another thing I wished she had said something about was her senior year. I do not know if she went to an integrated school (being in California-I believe it would be) or an all white or an all black school.
I think the book was very well written and since it was from her viewpoint, I believe that she accurately depicted it. The one flaw I found in the writing of the book was that by the middle of the book, the stories started to become redundant. Although you cannot change time to make different things happen, I wished she had talked about different aspects of the story not previously talked about. If I were to be asked to write the book, I would keep mostly everything the same but the time in the middle were she talks about the everyday abuse and explains what happened everyday, I would have taken different storied I had and replaced the ones that were familiar to the ones previously talked about. I would recommend this book to others if I knew that they were interested in this subject. Although the book was not one to keep your attention for very long, you would have been intrigued if you knew nothing about the problems they went through for the right that African Americans have today. I would recommend this book to people who are not aware of the things African Americans had to go through to get to where they are today. It would help that person understand things and help explain all the problems and the way the mind of people (blacks and whites) worked back then.
Beals, Melba Pattillo. Warriors Don’t Cry. First Washington Square Press trade paperback printing February 1994. Washington Square Press Publication of Pocket Books, a division of Simon& Schuster Inc. New York, NY.