Growing up as a teenager, Melba Pattillo Beals had to fight one of the mostcourageous wars in history. No, not a war that took place in the trenches of abattlefield, but a war that took place in the halls of an American highschoola war against color. Melba was one of nine black students who wasinvolved in one of the most important civil rights movements in Americanhistory. These nine black students, known as the Little Rock Nine, were thefirst to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, onSeptember 4, 1957. This was a major turning point for blacks all across theUnited States and opened the way for other blacks to begin attending whiteschools. Melba managed to survive her days at Central High School and wroteabout 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 andreligious household. Her family had come to accept the fact that they wouldalways be mistreated because of their color. In the South this mistreatment ofblacks 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 segregatedagainst and be constantly ridiculed simply because of her color. Unlike mostpeople, though, she wanted to do something about it and prayed for anopportunity that would allow her to fight back and hopefully make a difference. On May 17, 1954, Melbas opportunity began to emerge. The U. S. Supreme Courtruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional in Brownvs.
Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. In spite of the Supreme Court ruling,Arkansas did not begin to integrate its schools. Eventually, a federal courtordered Central High School in Little Rock to begin admitting black students in1957 in order to begin the states process of desegregation. Melba saw this asthe perfect chance to make a difference in her hometown. She was one of ninecourageous students who decided to try to attend the all-white Central HighSchool.
Although all the students knew it would not be easy to be the firstblack students to integrate, it was a lot more strenuous and difficult thananyone of them had imagined. On the first day that they tried to attend CentralHigh School, they didnt even get into the school. There were thousands ofpeople from all over the country outside the school that morning. Most wereanti-segregationists trying to prevent the nine students from entering. As thenine students walked past the angry mob and tried to enter the school, they werestopped and turned away by National Guardsmen who had been sent by Orval Faubus,the governor of Arkansas. Two weeks later President Dwight D.
Eisenhower sent1,000 federal troops to Little Rock to uphold the Supreme Courts decision andallow the desegregation of Central High. As the year progressed, the ninestudents went through a great deal of suffering and torture, but all stayedstrong and kept attending, knowing they were making a difference in the lives ofblacks all across the country. Melba Beals true account of the year she spentat Central High is important reading for everyone. This was a war that had to befought for civil rights, and Beals book shows the tremendous struggle andsuffering she and the eight other students went through. Beals portrays verywell the hatred and corruption of the white citizens of Little Rock throughoutthe book and gives the reader a good glimpse of what it was like to be in hershoes.
Every day during the school year, the Little Rock Nine were harassedrelentlessly. They would get their books and jackets stolen, have rocks thrownat them, be tripped, pushed into corners and beaten repeatedly. Not only did theteachers 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 placewhen a white student and a group of his friends came charging across a fieldyelling at Melba, threatening to hang her. In other instances, the nine blackstudents received bomb threats at their homes and death threats against theirfamily members on a regular basis. Not only did the desegregation of CentralHigh School jeopardize the nine students lives, it also