Table of Contents
|Chapter 1||Chapter 16|
|Chapter 2||Chapter 17|
|Chapter 3||Chapter 18|
|Chapter 4||Chapter 19|
|Chapter 5||Chapter 20|
|Chapter 6||Chapter 21|
|Chapter 7||Chapter 22|
|Chapter 8||Chapter 23|
|Chapter 9||Chapter 24|
|Chapter 10||Chapter 25|
|Chapter 11||Chapter 26|
|Chapter 12||Chapter 27|
|Chapter 13||Chapter 28|
|Chapter 14||Awesome Links|
Introduction: Little Rock Warriors Thirty Years Later
Little Rock 9 reunite to enter Little Rock Central High School (CHS)
once again amidst reporters and admirers. They’re greeted by black president
of the student body.
Melba was born on Pearl Harbor day. White nurse ignored order to irrigate
her head with Epsom salts and water. As she died, janitor mentioned salts,
mother demanded irrigation. Melba recovered. Grandmother India said she
was spared to battle segregation.
Blacks not born expecting segregation; they learn it gradually, erodes their self-esteem. Mother feared white people she passed on the street. Melba considered whites "in charge." Blacks had to use crummy "colored" bathrooms, water fountains, and weren’t allowed on merry-go-round.
Melba lived with Mother Lois, Grandma India, father Howell (Will Pattillo), brother Conrad. Grandma gave her a diary. Father was hostler’s helper at railroad, refused to take just one more course to graduate from college and get better paying job. Mother took night school to get master’s degree, was one of the 1st to attend graduate school at University of Arkansas and get degree. She was a 7th grade teacher, Grandma was a maid. It was a middle-class family.
White milkman harassed Mother, Father couldn’t protect her. Grocer overcharged
them, so they just paid. Melba went to white restroom, police questioned
them for an hour. When Melba was 7, parents divorced.
Melba in 7th grade. 1954, Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that segregation in public schools was illegal. Her teacher dismissed students, told them to walk home in groups. Melba took shortcut across field where older retarded Marissa sometimes lurked. White man angered at ruling attempted to rape her, Marissa attacked him. They escaped.
Melba signed up to integrate CHS without asking permission. 1957, League
of Central High School Mothers formed to oppose integration. Melba’s family
visited uncle in Cincinnati, Ohio; treated as equals. She planned to stay,
but was notified that she’d been assigned to CHS. Family angry, hurried
Mrs. Daisy Bates was AK state president of the Nat’l Assoc for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She and hubbie owned AK State Press, sole voice for black community. The 17 students who signed up dwindled to 9 because of violence threats. [Descriptions of students on p. 34-35.]
Some blacks opposed integration because black community would suffer.
Supreme Court ruling attacked for not allowing states self-government.
State court ruled against integration because it would cause violence.
NAACP went to federal court, got favorable ruling. Finally, Arkansas governor
Orval Faubus sent National Guard to CHS, forbade blacks from going near
the school. After his speech, hecklers started calling Melba. Grandma sat
up at night with gun. Father stormed in demanding that Melba not go because
his boss was threatening him. Federal Judge Ronald Davies ordered integrated
classes to begin. Melba felt sure that once students got to know them,
they’d realize they’re wrong about blacks.
Melba and Mother arrived at CHS. Mob ignored them, screeching at Elizabeth
as she tried to get past Nat’l Guardsmen. Melba and Mother ran for car,
chased by crowd. Melba drove them home, away from noose-carrying, branch-swinging
Elizabeth saved by white couple who sat next to her on bench at bus
stop and got on bus with her. Melba was sworn to secrecy about incident,
worried the white men would learn their identities and come "finish the
job." Melba cried, Grandma told her "God’s warriors don’t cry, ‘cause they
trust that He’s always by their side." Grandma read Bible to phone hecklers
and asked if they’d found the Lord. Mother threatened by school admin,
the news revealed their names and addresses. Mother told Melba that if
there was a break-in at night, she should run to 9th St, roughest
area of town, because it was busy at night and "our people" would "protect
you." Melba’s crush Vince called, said he’d see her at the wrestling matches.
White people shot in windows, Grandma scared them off, but couldn’t call
cops; they’d add to problem.
Father came, yelled at Grandma, but when Melba asked if he’d come back
that night to help, he just told them to quit. Meeting at Mrs. Bates’,
Melba worried about testifying in federal court since she wasn’t supposed
to mention being chased or shot at.
School Superintendent Virgil Blossom, who sold integration plan for years, now asked courts to suspend integration. President Eisenhower (Ike) asked Faubus to cooperate with Supreme Court. Saturday, Melba planned to see Vince at wrestling match and see what put white people in charge, but she was forbidden to go. Dangerous to be in public.
Sunday. Ad posted in paper by white man who was ashamed of the bigotry
and violence of mob against Elizabeth. Before church, Vince asked Melba
to be his girlfriend. Integration postponed, 9 forced to look to each other
for company, excluded from their friend’s social activities because it
wasn’t safe to have them around. People offered books and tutoring; Dr.
Lorch & Grace (protected Elizabeth from mob) tutored. Before court
hearing of Faubus, meeting at Mrs. Bates. NAACP state attorney Wiley Branton
and Thurgood Marshall (lawyer in Brown case, Chief Counsel of NAACP)
present. Faubus’ argument against integration was its accompanying violence.
Melba intrigued by reporters, they respected her, made her feel important,
answered her questions about the profession. "If I could be a news reporter,
I could be in charge of a few things."
Federal court hearing would be significant: whether federal gov has constitutional authority to check state governor when he defies federal court. Judge Ronald Davies presided, denied all motions of governor’s lawyers. Lawyers walked out, saying the US court can’t question authority of governor. Thurgood forced to eat with others on 9th St, no decent restaurants served blacks. Court again, witnesses said violence not substantial enough to necessitate troops. Judge Davies ruled that integration should continue.
Faubus removed Nat’l Guard. Black community fearful, authorities posed
more harm than help. Vince drove Melba home from church, talked only about
Melba arrived at school, police holding back mob. Met Mrs. Huckaby,
vice principal for girls. Each student assigned different homeroom. Teachers
indifferent. During gym, on playing field, 3 mothers jumped fence to attack.
Shorthand teacher, Mrs. Pickwick, was compassionate and no-nonsense. Outside
window, Melba saw an ocean of people. "2, 4, 6, 8, we ain’t gonna integrate,"
they shouted. She was taken to office, overheard that mob was out of control.
The 9 taken to basement garage, terrified driver got them safely home because mob was preoccupied beating black, then white reporters. Armed mob invaded school even after they confirmed Negroes no longer present. Melba dictated impromptu article to Assoc Press reporter over phone.
Next day, larger mob, Ike signed historical proclamation authorizing
use of federal troops to quash violence. Faubus said Ike couldn’t send
federal troops unless he, as governor, requested them.
1200 paratroopers of the Screaming Eagle Division of the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky arrived to prevent violence. Ike said mob rule used by communists to misrepresent US. At night, Ike’s representatives at Melba’s door, saying "Let your daughter go back to school, and she will be protected."
Next morning, the 9 are driven to school in jeep convoy. Soldiers form
square to protect students as they march up front entrance.
Melba assigned bodyguard Danny. Mrs. Huckaby determined to carry out
duties, keep things going smoothly. The 9 are joined at table by a few
friendly white girls who explained their friends stayed away because of
segregationist threats. Return to Mrs. Bates’ in jeep. Many reporters present,
one from the NY Post asks her to write articles. If it weren’t for
reporters, they might have been hanged and never noticed.
Next morning, Melba was attacked, Danny not allowed to get into verbal/physical
fights with students. Clerk in office required adult witness (besides Danny)
to get kids in trouble. If Melba raised her hand in class to complain,
got worse treatment. Friday, girl was friendly so she could get her photo
in Life magazine with Melba, then stabbed Melba with point of Confederate
flag pole. Dynamite tossed at her down stairs, Danny rushed it to another
soldier who rushed away. During pep rally, Melba was nearly strangled.
Danny thought they should’ve taken self-defense, "This here is a battle
if ever I’ve seen one."
Melba’s best friend Marsha no longer friendly. She felt she was no longer
herself, didn’t want to grow up. Allowed to meet Vince to go to church,
he brought a dozen roses. Church said special prayers for her. Monday,
Danny said she’d have to be soldier, never let enemy know what she felt.
Next day, Nat’l Guard but no 101st present. Students walk on Melba’s heels, spray her with ink. Office doesn’t care. In bathroom, girls throw flaming wads of paper into her stall. She retaliates by throwing books. Friendly advances diminishing. Mrs. Huckaby stands between Melba and 50 boys. Melba protects herself more aggressively. Attacked with switchblade. She and Minnijean go to principal Matthews, Melba speaks up. Matthews gives them worst looking members of Nat’l Guard for bodyguards.
101st return, students walk out of class, hang and burn a
black straw figure. Acid thrown in Melba’s eyes, Danny flushes it out with
water. Optometrist says she could have gone blind if it wasn’t washed out.
False rumors spread about 101st being in girl’s locker rooms,
launch massive internal investigation.
Meeting with leading segregationist students. Segregationists worried, know little about black culture, think 500 black students will come in next. Afterwards, segregationists say they have new attitude. Believe Negroes don’t want to go to school with whites, but are being paid by NAACP. Half of the 101st returns to Kentucky. Melba learning to be detached, deal with harassment without wasting time on being hurt. She gets knocked down in hall, students rush past, decent Guardsman helps her up and stays with her for the day. As 101st and Guard reduced, segregationists launch full campaign.
Melba becoming warrior, concerned with being strong, not showing pain.
No time for Vince or her brother. Girls pour scalding water on her in showers,
she pulls them in, kicks and curses at them. Heel-walking committee follows
her down halls.
Meeting with Superintendent Blossom, everyone expecting it to be about protection. Instead, lecture on not responding to aggression to keep peace. Blossom ignores Mother Lois when she tries to speak up. During rally, boy threatens Melba with knife twice. Mrs. Bates’ newspaper being strangled economically. Civil suit filed against NAACP, trying to get names, addies, phone #s of NAACP officials. 101st rarely returns, staying at Camp Robinson. "AK Nat’l Slobs" (Nat’l Guard) becoming openly hostile.
November, Minnijean convinced that students will accept her once they hear her sing, but Mother’s League bars her participation in talent show. Thelma, Melba concerned about her, she won’t listen to them. [p. 193-194, FX of integration on the 9.] 101st removed, Nat’l Guard has full responsibility to enforce court order. Faubus says Guard won’t do what federal gov ordered; they were enlisted to defend country in time of need. White charities not donating for Thanksgiving, taking away jobs from blacks. Students tell reporters they’re making as much trouble for the 9 as possible; 9 described as totally isolated from the 2000 CH students because even friendly white kids were intimidated by social ostracism.
Melba speaks to 250 kids at early morning chapel service, talks about
God and His love for us. Some students congratulate her. At official Thanksgiving
dinner at Mrs. Bates’, Melba says "integrated turkey" (white/dark meat).
Reporters make it the theme of the news conference. Before Thanksgiving
vacation, Danny gives her some advice, winks and salutes, leaves for the
last time. Mother’s League doesn’t want blacks involved in any extracurriculars.
Melba left out of holiday festivities, students who try to explain to
her are chastised by others. The 9 had been very active in their previous
school, Horace Mann, and felt loss of participation deeply. Melba so preoccupied
with survival, no time for loneliness. [p. 205-206, survival wearing them
down.] School officials waiting for excuse to kick the 9 out, hoping hooligans
provoke them to retaliation. Melba longs for someone to notice she’s alive
and be pleasant to her. Feels invisible among all those chatting students.
Grandma India says that making it through the year is the biggest retaliation
of all, wants her to read about Gandhi.
Melba nearly forgets that she’s turning 16. Organized harassment, teams of students assigned specific kinds of torture. Rumors of segregationist training programs. Minnijean wants to sing with glee club for X-mas, can’t accept that school officials have no compassion. Melba invites only Horace Mann friends + Minnijean to her sweet 16 party, doesn’t want to think about integration. Vince comes 1st, says she never returns his calls. Marsha calls to say she can’t come, most people going to Ann’s annual X-mas party, afraid to go to her house. Vince leaves for Ann’s party.
Last-minute drive to get the 9 out before end of year. Students see
Minnijean’s vulnerability and capitalize on it. In cafeteria, she tries
to get past taunting boys, spills chili on them. Black servers applaud,
caf silent. She’s suspended.
Segregationists triumphant. "1 nigger down, 8 to go." Threatening recall of school board, Blossom might deny her readmission to save their jobs. If Minnijean expelled, integration efforts across South could halt. Nat’l Org of Delta Sigma Theta throw party in honor of 9. Members nationwide mail gifts. They are praised highly, lifted their spirits.
X-mas shopping downtown. Stores only recently allowed blacks to try
on clothes. She meets Andy, a boy she kicked in crotch. He threatens to
kill her. She rushes to restroom, emerge with 3 sisters from church. Little
Rock story important enough to be 2nd most covered news topic,
yet nobody is making students behave.
Faubus still threatening legal action to re-implement segregation. Melba
withdraws from French, can’t concentrate, easy classes made difficult.
White Citizens Council has reward $ for anyone who can incite the 9 to
misbehave and get expelled. Minnijean readmitted on the proviso that she
not respond to attackers in any way (what about self-defense?). 2 white
students suspended, bomb threats at school. Mother’s League and Citizens’
Council rally, speech "What Race Mixers Are Planning for Us" (ironic).
Mrs. Huckaby, school officials, Guard fearful. Nat’l Veterans Org gives
them Americanism Award, yet they’re just niggers to beat up on @ CHS. Melba
wishes she were dead, Grandma says that would let segregationists win.
All her time and energy devoted to surviving. Minnijean attacked, nobody
sure who attacked or fought back. Attackers accused her of retaliation.
Minnijean expelled, 3 whites suspended. NAACP arranges for her to attend famous NY private school. Melba doused with raw eggs, goes home. Grandma says to respond in an unexpectedly pleasant way so hecklers won’t think she’s their victim anymore and she’ll feel in charge of herself. She smiles, says "thank you" to disarm hecklers. Hall patrols by Guardsmen eliminated. Andy threatens her with wrench, hits her across back with tennis racquet.
Melba distracted imagining Minnijean’s school, waits alone at most dangerous
entrance to school for carpool. Andy and friends spot her, boy named Link
puts keys in trunk of his car and tells her to escape, then joins Andy.
She grabs keys and speeds off.
Melba careens home, afraid people will think she’s stolen the car. Link
calls, she asks him why he helped. He says because Andy was serious about
killing her. Tells her to drop car off in front of store. Melba suspects
trap. But at school, Link acknowledges her whenever he sees her. He calls,
warns her not to sit in regular seat; she’s new target. At school, she
discovers seat covered with broken glass. Goes to lunch, hoodlums harass
her. She knows about new penalty for initiating attacks – suspension, so
she doesn’t respond, reads about Gandhi. She thanks hoodlums, feels she’s
finally in charge of how she acts. Link leads them out after lunch, saying
that beating her up isn’t worth the penalties.
Link calls, explains that dad makes him go to segregationist planning meetings. Grandma and Mother suspicious that he’s Klansman setting trap, but Melba has to take whatever help she can get. He calls every night with warnings, advice, tells her about school activities, traditions, segregationist plans, significant secrets of school officials. He swore her to secrecy, only Grandma and Mother knew about him. School Board demands stronger efforts to control students. More efforts to discipline students, one girl expelled.
Melba tries to catch up on fan mail from around world congratulating her. Several marriage proposals from cute boys, some of them white. One night, Link calls, infuriated that many graduation activities cancelled because possible trouble and Guard presence. Says that segregationists determined to prevent the 9’s return next year, planning to hurt their families. Says teachers who discipline segregationists are ostracized.
Judge Lemley, native Southerner, takes over for Judge Davies to hear
petition of Little Rock School Board to postpone integration.
Mrs. Huckaby lapses into denial, Melba on her own. Saturday, Link calls asking her to meet him in North Little Rock. She goes, he drives her to crumbling black neighborhood. She’s frightened, still distrusts him. He says he won’t let anything happen to her. They bring groceries to Nana Healey, his black caretaker. She’d been with his family all her life, but became seriously ill so they turned her out. He wants Melba to convince her to see doctor. He goes about repairing the one-room shack, pained to hear her coughing all morning. Watching Link tend to Mrs. Healey, Melba loses all suspicion. He explains afterwards that when he asks parents to make some provision for her, father calls him a "nigger lover," says he shouldn’t spoil them.
Melba finds black doctor, he says he can’t do much except make Mrs. Healey comfortable. She’s dying, needs long-term hospital care. Melba tells Link, he’s furious at parents, who didn’t even pay social security for her. He shares his allowance with her. Melba tells Grandma about Mrs. Healey. Grandma visits Mrs. Healey on her trips to North Little Rock, gets to know Link.
Melba’s new dress sprayed with ink. Link asks her if she’s okay, she yells at him (he shouldn’t talk to her at school) and keeps walking, right into a group of boys. One of them is going to punch her, but Link yells that he "redecorated the nigger’s dress." She gets away safely.
Segregationists want the 9 out before end of school year so they can’t
register for next year. Girls surround Melba and make negative comments
on her body. Mother Lois says they’re not renewing her teaching contract
next year, even though she has 14 years of experience and awards, unless
Melba is withdrawn from CHS.
Mother doesn’t borrow the usual loan to last them through summer; ration food, eat rice and potatoes. Bank calls about car, man who holds mortgage calls note. Administrator offers Mother job in Oklahoma. But if she withdraws Melba, she’ll stay and get a handsome raise. Mother calls the newspapers. Her story is teletyped nationwide, supporters from all over country call/write to admin’s office. Abuse at school worsens, Melba feels left out of graduation celebrations and prom.
AK Gazette and editor win 2 Pulitzer Prizes. Melba wonders when the 9 will get big award; Gazette just observing from afar, never once spent a day in hell with her. Segregationists try to prevent Ernie from graduating. Bishop O.J. Sherman is one of the most powerful people in black community. He tells Mother to go to admin and tell him he wants her to have a job. Her teaching contract is renewed.
Explosives resembling firecrackers tossed at Melba all day. Andy continues
harassment with knife, Melba shields herself with book. Segregationists
making headway, NAACP loses in 2 motions to halt suits. AK attorney harasses
NAACP, arrests officials, claim they’re doing illegal business. Mrs. Huckaby
tells them to only attend crucial classes, final exams, leave immediately
after. Link begs Melba not to attend graduation; they’re bringing rifles.
FBI, police, armed Guardsmen to be at graduation due to bomb threats and
Faculty powerless, hoodlums throw stones as teachers watch. Melba burnt by firecrackers. $10k reward on her head. Grandma suggests she burn the names of people who wronged her, forgive them one by one. Melba not allowed at graduation to prevent violence. Ernie receives diploma, escorted by police to taxi. Diploma cost taxpayers $500k, but cost the 9 their innocence and a precious year of their teens. Next day, Link calls because Mrs. Healey died the day of his graduation. He insists that she meet him. They walk together, he wants her to come to a town near Harvard, where he’ll be going, so he can take care of her until she gets a job. She refuses.
The 9 go on tour, treated like royalty, receive numerous awards. In South, they’re just "niggers," but in North, heroes and heroines. Meet UN Secretary General and celebrities like Johnny Mathis. They’re asked to sign autographs. But June 22, Fed Judge Lemley delays integration for 3.5 years. NAACP begins round of appeals, win by September. But Faubus has last word: closes all of Little Rock’s high schools.
Melba returns home, neighbors angry at negative economic impact. They’re losing jobs, businesses, homes as pressure to talk the 9 into withdrawing. Grandmother dies of leukemia. Melba spends entire year in lonely isolation and despair. Forced to move out of Little Rock because of unrest and bounty on heads. By Sept of next year, schools still closed. NAACP asks for families to volunteer to take the 9 in, finish their education. Melba stays with Dr. McCabe, SFSU professor, and his wife Carol. Their unconditional love helps heal her wounds. She enters college in January, 1960. In September 1960, NAACP wins. Carlotta and Jefferson admitted to CHS.
Looking back, Melba thinks that if Faubus hadn’t called out troops on first day, integration would’ve been less difficult. His bold defiant act gave renegades the green light. Many historians thought it brilliant for Faubus to remove Guard when Judge Davies ruled for integration on Sept 20, 1957.
At SFSU, Melba integrated dorm where the only blacks allowed were cooks. Met soldier named John. They married 6 months later, he said he’d protect her forever. He represented Danny, Link, power of white CHS students, safety her father couldn’t provide. They had daughter, Kellie, but divorced in 7 years. Link had been piling up awards at prestigious universities, furious that she married John when she’d said all along they couldn’t date because he was white, never wrote to her again.
Melba attended Columbia U, became reporter. Remembered it was the truth
that reporters who came to Little Rock told that kept her alive. She learned
that to separate ourselves costs the separated as much as it does the separators.
Nifty Resources for Warriors Don't Cry
Little Rock Central High 40th Anniversary - a wealth of information from CHS itself!
The American Experience - Interview with Melba Beals
A super-quick synopsis of Warriors Don't Cry from BlackFamilies.com
A review of White is a State of Mind, Ms. Beal's continuation of Warriors Don't Cry
Novermber 6, 1998 White House Press Release
1954 Brown v. Board of Education