**Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals (1994)

This is another one of those “must reads” that I never read, and I have no idea why.  Typically it’s not taught in school, and though I’ve always heard of it, I never had a compelling reason to pick it up.  That will not be the case with my own kids–they will definitely read it.  Soon.  This is the story of the LIttle Rock nine, the nine students who first integrated Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas in 1957, three years after Brown vs. Board of Education.  I’ve read Southie Won’t Go, another non-fiction book which chronicles school integration, but somehow Warriors was more powerful.  Perhaps because it’s a memoir, one girl’s personal experience rather than the story of the riots in South Boston.

My ninth graders just finished a unit on courage and heroism, with The Odyssey as the central work of literature, but Warriors brings the concept of courage so much closer to home for our students.  This book–and these nine students–define courage in a way that is unfathomable to most of us.  The concept of bullying today hardly compares to the verbal and physical abuse these students suffered simply for being black in an intolerant, small-minded, prejudiced world.  And they faced it with fortitude and grace.  Melba held her head high and headed back day after day, even after the 101st soldiers completed their guard duty after a few months.  Can you imagine needing 52 planeloads of soldiers to protect nine students?  What does that tell us about the Little Rock community in 1957?  This story is an absolute necessity–for students today and in the future.  They must understand what it took to integrate schools and the courage these kids had to dig for simply to change the course of history.  If everyone read this, perhaps our current tolerance levels would grow.  Perhaps our racial, religious, ethnic, and sexual preference differences really wouldn’t matter, and we’d all treat each other with respect.  (memoir)

One comment

  1. I also loved this book. I read it for a class that I have to do a lesson in, and I was very surprised by the brutality these children faced. As I neared the end of the book I couldn’t put it down. The high school class I am observing is reading this book along with To Kill A Mockingbird. They will be referencing text to text and text to self or others while they are reading both books. I agree that this is an eye-opening book for our students. It is difficult to imagine that any of us could continue to face the attacks that these students faced day in and day out by their classmates. What had to be even more hurtful was the admission that adults stood by and tolerated this abuse on their students.


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