Why does Melba Pattillo write Warriors Don't Cry?

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The book is first and foremost an autobiographical memoir of the time in Beals’s life when she was one of the nine black students to attend the all-white Central High School. This means it is her firsthand account of what that experience was like for a young teenager who, like...

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The book is first and foremost an autobiographical memoir of the time in Beals’s life when she was one of the nine black students to attend the all-white Central High School. This means it is her firsthand account of what that experience was like for a young teenager who, like all adolescents, just wanted to find out who she was.

One possible reason Beals wrote the book is because it allowed her to experience catharsis. After enduring such a stressful event that shaped her view of the world, Beals might have wanted to purge her feelings about it as she reflected from an adult perspective.

Another reason she wrote the book is to serve as a primary source. The historical importance and impact of the Little Rock Nine is simply abstract without hearing the details from someone who was there. Beals may have wanted to write the book as a witness to history so that contemporary audiences could understand the issues it deals with, including racism, discrimination, and violence.

It is likely that Beals intended that the book become both a personal act of reconciling the past and a public documentation of the truth.

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Melba Pattillo, born in Little Rock, AR in 1941, wrote Warriors Don't Cry to remind the world about a turning point in American history, a moment in history in which she was intimately involved. She wrote it also for the chance to tell her story of the experiences of desegregation Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Melba Pattillo (now Beals) grew up in Little Rock during a time when racial segregation was deeply and firmly entrenched. The Supreme Court ruled in 1954 in "Brown vs. Board of Education" that public education could not constitutionally be segregated and that all-white schools in the South, or elsewhere, must admit non-white students. Melba was one of the few whose request to attend all-white Central High was accepted. The world was astounded when, during the opening days of the school year, President Eisenhower had to send National Guard troops to Little Rock to Central High to protect the lives of Melba Pattillo and the other students who were attempting to enter under the Supreme Court's ruling.

 

[Along with an eNotes link to information on Warriors Don't Cry there are links to Melba Pattillo Beals's biography and the transcript of an interview with her.]

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