Warriors Don't Cry

by Melba Pattillo Beals

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What is the theme of Warriors Don't Cry?

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One theme of Warriors Don't Cry is overcoming racism and social injustice. Beals was one of the Little Rock Nine, the first black students to integrate all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. This is a first-person account of the trials and racism these black students encountered during their year at Central. Beals relates not only her personal experiences, but also those of her classmates, both black and white, during this time. They are spat upon, hit, cursed at, chased, and threatened. Despite these injustices, the black students remained, resisting the attempts of many, including officials, to prevent them from attending school at Central.

Another important theme would be using resistance to change social structure. The Little Rock Nine did not cower; although only one of them graduated from the school--Ernest Green, a senior--and only a few of them actually managed to last the entire year, their stance and fight changed the face of Little Rock and many schools across the nation. They were passive in their resistance; Grandma India suggests, for example, that rather than respond with vitriol to the hateful actions of white students, teachers, and community members, Melba should smile and politely and thank them. Beals notes that this shifts the power into her hands, as the students in particular do not know how to respond to this reaction.

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