Warriors Don’t Cry

Note: I wrote this review before the events at The University of Missouri. I know we still have a lot to learn and figure out. My wish is for everyone to BE KIND and NOT BE AN ASSHOLE. Call me naive. God Bless and Peace on Earth.

Thoughts wdcbympb A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rocks’ Central High by Melba Pattillo Beals, Washington Square Press 1994, 312 pages

From the goodreads.com blurb:

In 1957, well before Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Melba Pattillo Beals and eight other teenagers became iconic symbols for the Civil Rights Movement and the dismantling of Jim Crow in the American South as they integrated Little Rock’s Central High School in the wake of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling, Brown v. Board of Education.

Throughout her harrowing ordeal, Melba was taunted by her schoolmates and their parents, threatened by a lynch mob’s rope, attacked with lighted sticks of dynamite, and injured by acid sprayed in her eyes. But through it all, she acted with dignity and courage, and refused to back down.

This book was so startling to me. That the white students of Central High, organized by parents and with help from the Governor! could be so … mean, isn’t the right word, and hateful is accurate, but physically abusive is more true. Flaming firebombs and firecrackers, acid, kicks and punches with adults pretending not to see.

I just don’t understand. And don’t say, “Well, that was the way it was in the South back then.” Well, it was disgusting.

And we are only playing these same scenes still but covertly (OR: NOT COVERTLY:  swastikas drawn with feces?) and/or on different groups of underprivileged HUMANs. Because they are ‘different’? Get over it.

Imagine such a scene today if Federal troops were called to keep peace inside a school. Of course, parents would protest if armed soldiers were in the hallways of their children’s school now; but to think that these soldiers were protecting NINE kids from the hundreds attending. It boggles my brain. I don’t think I could would have been quarter as brave and courageous as these African American kids who just wanted to go to school and learn. They really didn’t quite have a grasp of the political undertaking they were about to begin nor the significance that bright September — oh yes, they certainly figured it out!  but this thought of the importance of what they were setting out to do and understanding that it was to be so very difficult; for it to be a sustaining principle to make the abuse ‘worth it’? Amazing. How can a 15 yo have the strength to start such and ‘see what happens?’

Applaud their fortitude and the unwavering support of their families.

And that the judge who ordered that integration should proceed had an armored guards protecting him 24 hours a day?! While these kids only had protection for a few months and only during the school hours – not getting to and from. They couldn’t stick up for themselves or show their fear because then they were the ones at risk of being suspended or expelled.


“Much worse than the fear and any physical pain I had endured was the hurt deep down inside my heart, because no part of me understood why people would do those kinds of things to one another.”

At one point Melba was so discouraged and lonely but she was to get NO sympathy from her very strong, loving and wise grandmother:

“Did you count on the central people for your spiritual food before you went there? Have you been waiting on them to treat you good and tell you you’re all right so you’ll know you’re all right? Does God know your value? You could never in this lifetime count on another human being to keep you from being lonely, nobody can provide your spiritual food.”


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8 thoughts on “Warriors Don’t Cry

    1. I know, but. Yes and no. Melba had relatives in the 50s that she visited in Cincinnati and there she experienced a LOT less discrimination and physical abuse when shopping and walking downtown streets — their schools were integrated. As a Northerner growing up in the 60s and 70s, I can tell you that I was scared, as a white person, to ever visit the South because I assumed that it was war all the time between the races. I had ZERO interest in ever visiting, it scared and scarred me, I was convinced the South was a hateful terrible place. SO, yea, it may have happened everywhere and still does but the South has and I see it in NC now, overt racist attitudes that I have NEVER seen in Kansas nor Massachusetts nor Missouri(!!) nor Illinois. But maybe the covert “let’s not talk about it” stuff is worse. I don’t know, I really don’t know.

      1. I just — wow. This comment is every stereotype about my home and my kin that I’ve ever heard in my life. The South (like all the other parts of the country) is a vast and diverse landscape, and you encounter different mindsets and worldviews in different parts of it. I never heard the n-word in urban Louisiana in my life, and when I lived in urban areas of Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts, I heard it a bunch. Places are different, racism is different, people’s experiences are different. When you substitute this bogeyman scapegoat version of the South for the complicated reality, you’re flattening out the lived experiences of so many people (including me, including my family members, black and white). I truly can’t tell you how crummy it made me feel to see you say this.

        1. ok, this is discussion. Help me. Email me. What did I say other than racism sucks and I do see it everywhere but I see it differently everywhere and maybe I now more need to confront it where I used to not notice it? Am I only noticing it more? You say Ineed to flatten out the experiences? Help me see what was crummy? My saying something “wrong-thinking”/bad or that I have had bad experiences, too?

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