Melba Pattillo Beals

One of the Little Rock Nine

Picture of Melba Pattillo Beals source.

Challenges she faced- Being a woman of color and being one of the first to integrate a predominantly white school came with many challenges. Melba faced things such as being attacked, threatened, spit at, and being called racial slurs. Melba announced on "NBC Learn" that she was, "being hit day after day after day". She also stated that, "the first few days somebody calls you n***er, animal, a monkey, ape".

People who inspired her- In her book "Warriors Don't Cry", she explained how there were a few people that helped her get through that grueling time of integration. The people that helped her keep going were her mother, grandmother, brother, and 101st guard Danny (last name not stated anywhere). Danny was assigned to follow her throughout the school for most of the year to ensure that she was safe. Although that was his job he could not help out if someone attacked her verbally or physically, he could only if something that was life threatening was occuring. That year, while shadowing her, Danny gave her advice on how to fight back if she found herself in a life threatening situation and he was not there. The advice is what helped Melba keep pushing through the integration process. Danny also saved Melba once from acid being thrown at on her eyes. Towards the end of the year, the government found that the nine did not need the guards anymore, so they recalled them, however, Melba did not get a chance to thank Danny and say farewell.

How she dealt with racism- Melba has some methods that helped her overcome racism. For example, once Melba cried and her grandmother saw her and told her that "warriors don't cry." Her grandmother also told Melba that when she feels the urge to cry, to fight it until she is alone. Melba took the advice and did not cry as frequently, and when she did, she made sure she was alone. Another method Melba used was smiling at those who directed a racial slur towards her. She felt that this was better than showing them that she was angry. The last method that Melba used was ignoring people who showed they hated her because of her race. Melba felt that if you ignored them then the situation would not escalate.

Legacy- 61 years later, Melba still remembers everything from integrating Central High School. After high school in Little rock, she attended College at San Francisco State University where she got her bachelor's degree in journalism. She continued her studies in New York City and pursuing journalism and wrote the book "Warriors Don't Cry", "White is a State of Mind", "I Will Not Fear: My Story of a Lifetime", and "March Forward, Girl: From Young Warrior". Melba has three children named Matthew Pattillo, Evan Pattillo, and Kellie Beals. She was also married to John Beals from 1961-1971. Melba Pattillo Beals is a strong, inspirational, and hardworking woman who has overcome segregation and touched many souls with her story.

Poster from the 2016 Women's March,
New-York Historical Society.