Warriors Don’t Cry

Beals, Melba Pattillo. Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High. New York: Pocket Books, 1994.

If you stop and think about it, 1957 was not that long ago. Think about the span of a lifetime, on average. Think about the course of history and how slowly it moves. 1957, given all that, was yesterday. While we do not have clear lines of segregation that we did back then (water fountains, bathrooms and backs of buses to name a few) we still have the invisible lines that separate white from black. If that were not the case we wouldn’t have the rash of “firsts” that we have had recently: first black coach to win the Superbowl, first black President of the United States…These firsts would have happened years ago if the invisible line didn’t still exist to a certain degree.

I cannot imagine Melba Patillo Beals’s life. One of the scariest scenes for me was when she first tried to go to Central High after desegregation was declared. The hatred and violence she described seemed subhuman, barbaric even. Could we really live in a society that contained so much hatred? The obvious answer is yes, and we still do.

True to Beals’s title, Warriors Don’t Cry is a “searing memoir of the battle to integrate.” Every day was a struggle. Civil rights were hardly observed in a civil manner. Utter hatred spawned uncontrolled violence. For Melba Beals this hatred was not something she read about or glanced at on the television. She live it in every step she took. She experienced it first hand simply because of the color of her skin. How brave of her to write it all down! How lucky for us she decided to remember it all! Warriors Don’t Cry is not an eye-opener. We have seen these things all along. Her memoir keeps it all in view.

While I didn’t find any quotes that struck me one way or another I was moved by Melba’s experience with her “own” people. In addition to whites who were having an extremely hard time accepting integration, there were a fair number of blacks who didn’t want it either. Melba was making enemies on both sides of the color divide.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Civil Rights and Wrongs” (p 49).

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