Nancy Lee does not lose her pride and self-worth because these were neither created nor nurtured by the committee. All the sensations of pride in winning the scholarship were formulated and developed before she learned the bad news. Nancy Lee savored the knowledge that she had won; she wrote a moving, heartfelt speech about the meaning of the award and of American democracy. Although she will be prevented from giving the speech and from receiving the scholarship, she has already internalized what it meant to her.
Hughes shows the processes that went into developing Nancy Lee's art along with her character. Her parents made sacrifices to move north, and then improved their lives as well as hers. They had already become educated, at southern "Negro colleges," and her mother had earned another degree up north. Nancy Lee's foundation is solid and unshakable. Also, her art developed along with the "deep and reverent race pride" that Hughes tells us she possesses. Her art teacher had helped her learn not just about Euro-American art, but had fostered her interest in African art traditions such as Benin, Congo, and Makonde.
Although the committee's racism prompted the rationale that she would be out of place in the art school, she is clearly portrayed as fitting in at her school, and her classmates as not discriminating against her. Thus, her school experience has taught her that the committee would be wrong.
We see how her sense of community with her white school principal is established when Miss O'Shay talks about how democracy is "ours" to make. At the very end, Nancy Lee thinks as well, that the nation is "the land we must make." Through the experience of rejection, she has come to see herself as part of that "we."
Although Miss O'Shay lets Nancy Lee down by not fighting for her to receive the scholarship, she does tell her that she will try to change the policy to help future students. Rather than feel let down, Nancy Lee vows to fight when she is a woman. She understands that this is her fight, and that the "men and women like Miss O'Shay will help me." Thus, she gains in maturity and conviction through being cheated out of what she rightly won.