What are some characteristic traits of Melba Patillo Beals in the book Warriors Don't Cry?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Melba Pattillo Beals is an extremely religious person whose faith is unshakable. She writes, "The experience endowed me with an indestructible faith in God" (2). During her experience integrating Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, she faces daily harassment and threats, but still continues to see herself as a warrior for God. She does not turn hateful or vindictive, but instead is truly forgiving and thankful. She prays for the white and African-American people who help her survive, and she does not become bitter, despite the hatred that some of her schoolmates display towards her.

She is also an intelligent and thoughtful person. Part of why she is accepted to integrate Central High School is because she is scholarly and has high grades. The diary she keeps during the school year shows that she is reflective about her experiences. Her experiences also make her mature. Though she starts the year as, in some ways, a typical teen who likes Johnny Mathis and clothes, she matures very quickly. She remains tenacious throughout her ordeal; she returns to school day after day and says that she would go through the same experiences again to integrate Central High School and advance African-American equality.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Melba Pattillo Beals is stubborn. She always strives for what she believes in and wants. For instance, she knew that she was receiving a lower quality education at the all-black Horace Mann High School compared to what was offered at the all-white Central High School. She wants to join college and understands that would only happen if she gets the right education at Central High. Without seeking consent from her parents, she voluntarily signs up to be transferred to Central High School as part of the integration program.

She is courageous; despite the grave danger posed by the mobs at school and within the community, Melba consistently attends the school that year. In fact, she is so courageous that she walks by herself in Central High.

Melba is perseverant. She withstood all the animosity meted out on her, and gracefully smiles and thanks her tormentors.

sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Melba Patillo Beals is an exceptionally strong character.  I do not mean in terms of raw physical strength.  I mean regarding her personality and mental toughness.  She is one of nine students selected to attend the previously all-white school in Little Rock, Arkansas.  

The general population, at this time in history, is very against desegregation, so Melba and her eight classmates are walking into an incredibly hostile environment every day.  Just to be willing to do this Melba must be extremely brave.  She also has a lot of determination.  She is yelled at, threatened, insulted, and much worse on a daily basis, so for her to decide to walk back into that every day shows a lot of mental toughness.  

Melba also has an understanding of what is happening, which might be why she sticks with it.  She knows that her efforts are helping break down racial barriers across the nation, so Melba is definitely an unselfish character.  

If you're interested in learning more about Melba Patillo Beals and the Little Rock Nine, here's a short video with footage of the angry crowds that surrounded her high school and a short interview with Beals herself: