Warriors Don't Cry Study Guide

Warriors Don't Cry By Melba Beals

Melba Beals nearly died on her first day alive due to racism, and her grandmother India declared on that first day that she was kept alive to battle segregation. She grew up with her mother Lois, father Will, grandmother India, and brother Conrad, but her parents divorced when she was only 7 years old.

When Melba was in 7th grade, [I]Brown vs. the Board of Education[/I] hit the Supreme Court, and segregation in schools was made illegal. That day, a man angry about the ruling attempting to rape Melba on the way home from school. Melba signed up to be one of the integrating students without asking her family.

The issue caused such friction that the Governor of Arkansas sent in the National Guard to keep the integrating students [I]out[/I] of the school. Melba's family members were threatened. Melba maintained that, once they were in school, the white kids would realize that the blacks were decent people, too.

Things didn't work out like that. Melba barely escaped with her life time and time again as crazy white people tried to kill the integrating students. Long-time supporters of integration changed their views when they saw the violence they had caused. Every day, the mob grew, and the violence escalated from just the original 9 integrators to any black reporter, than any reporter at all.

Finally, Eisenhower dispatched the 101st Airborne Division from a local fort to quell the violence. Representatives showed up at Melba's house promising to protect her on the way to school. They can't protect her completely, and the violence gets petty rather than dangerous, then gets dangerous again as they relax a little.

Melba's grandmother tells her "God's warriors don't cry", and Melba learns to shrug off the hurt of the persecution. As the students in school persecute anyone who even looks at the 9 integrators without scowling, Melba speaks in front of a large church congregation about God's love. Nothing changes.

The school administration admits that it's basically looking for an excuse to throw the 9 out, and refuses to allow them to participate in any extracurricular activities such as the talent show. No one will talk to the 9 now, and they feel completely abandoned in the social vacuum. India wants Melba to read about Ghandi, saying that making it through the year will be her retaliation.

She makes an ally of a boy named Link just as the violence settles it's targets directly on her. He helps her avoid several dangerous-to-deadly situations, because he's sitting in on the segregationist's planning sessions. He tells them they're determined to expel all 9 by the end of the year so they have no chance to register for next year.

Melba's mother is threatened with transfer to a new job if Melba stays in school and offered a raise if Melba quits; she tells her story to the national newspapers and it's an overnight sensation. Melba also receives fan mail, including several wedding proposals.

Melba learns that there is a ten thousand dollar reward on her head, but perseveres in the face of thrown stones, firecrackers, and worse. Eventually, she graduated and went on to college, just a nigger in the South but a heroine and a long-standing example of black and Christian virtue in the north.

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Did melba make the right choice to attend little rock central high school in 1957? Explain your reasoning?

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What does Melba's account suggest about the way racism affects everyone in a society-those who are considered privileged as well as those who are victims of racism?

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