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WARRIORS DON'T CRY by Melba Pattillo Beals

WARRIORS DON'T CRY

A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock's Central High

By Melba Pattillo Beals

Pub Date: May 15th, 1994
ISBN: 0-671-86638-9
Publisher: Pocket

 A profoundly uplifting--and also a profoundly depressing- -account of the integration of Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. Forty years ago, when the US Supreme Court declared that school segregation was unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, Beals was a schoolgirl in Little Rock. She knew that the good school in Little Rock, the one that would prepare her best for college, was Central High, and she wanted to be in the first group of black teenagers to integrate the school. Not everyone in her family or in the black population of the city supported her dream, fearing that such boat-rocking would bring a reign of violence. This memoir, based heavily on Beals's schoolgirl diary and her English-teacher mother's notes, explains how the 15-year-old decided to integrate Central High with eight classmates and what happened as a result of that decision. Beals's narrative is uplifting because she survived the ordeal, went on to college at San Francisco State University and Columbia University, worked as a reporter for NBC, and returned to Little Rock in 1987 to be greeted by then-governor Bill Clinton and a black Central High student-body president. The tale is depressing because unrelenting violence permeates every page, making a reader wonder (not for the first time, sadly) how human beings can harbor so much hatred. The violence jumps out of every paragraph for entire chapters--violence begat by Beals's white classmates, their parents, Little Rock rednecks with no connection to Central High, even the school's teachers. Arkansas governor Orval Faubus tacitly, and sometimes overtly, encouraged the violence. The goal was to drive the nine black students away from Central High before they could graduate. President Eisenhower responded by calling in federal troops to enforce the law, turning Central High into an armed battleground. The sense of immediacy in Beals's well-crafted account makes the events seem like they happened yesterday.