Stories of Us Recalling the Little Rock Nine.
The birthdate of Melba Pattillo Beals…
MELBA BEALS: (1957) In speaking for the group, I might also say, that there are moral standards mixed in this. We feel that it is our right to go, because it is an institution supported by taxes which our parents participate in; we do feel we have a right to go.
Melba Pattillo Beals was born on December 7, 1941, in Little Rock, Arkansas. She later recounted her experience at Central High School in her book Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle To Desegregate Little Rock’s Central High School.
Beals grew up surrounded by family members who knew the importance of an education. Her mother, Lois, had been one of the first African-Americans to graduate from the University of Arkansas in 1954. At Central, Beals faced daily harassment from white students and as Beals later recounted, the soldier assigned to protect her instructed, “In order to get through this year, you will have to become a soldier. Never let your enemy know what you are feeling.” Beals took the soldier’s advice, and finished the school year. Barred from entering Central High School the following year when the city’s schools were closed, Beals moved to Santa Rosa, California, for her senior year of high school.
Beals graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree. She earned a graduate degree in communications from Columbia University, worked as a reporter for NBC, and has served as a communications consultant. Beals is also the only one of the Little Rock Nine to have written a book based on her experiences at Central High School. The book, published in 1995, is a first-hand account of the trials and tribulations that Beals and the nine students encountered from segregationists and racist students. The book was named the ALA Notable Book for 1995 and won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award that same year. She has also written White is a State of Mind, published in 1999, which follows Beals from her senior year in high school to her college and family days in California, and serves as a sequel to Warriors Don’t Cry. Beals has three children.
There is a great deal to be said for teaching the youth of today the stories of their own living legends – and not those who entertain others through dribbling prowess, demonstrates of strength or agility, or even through the majesty of voice. There is a much greater gift to give to our children – the gift of perspective…the gift of legacy.