Warriors Don't Cry

by Melba Pattillo Beals

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How does Melba survive her year at Central High School in Warriors Don't Cry by Beals?

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Melba was able to survive her year at Central High School because of her self-determination, support from other students and adults, and the strong love she felt for her family.

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In addition to seeing herself as a warrior, Melba was also able to survive because she created a support system for herself. While other students left—voluntarily or forcibly—Melba stuck it out because of the support she received from others. Melba developed a close friendship with Link, a white high school boy, who helped her (for example, by letting her borrow his car) as she helped him better understand racial issues.

She also became close with fellow Little Rock Nine members, who looked to one another for encouragement and solidarity. Furthermore, she looked to the local black newspaper publisher, Daisy Bates, as a mentor and source of strength. Every time Melba felt like giving up in the text, she sought the advice of her friends, mentor, and tight-knit family.

With their support and her self-determination to persevere regardless of the abuses she suffered, Melba survived her year at Central High.

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Melba is able to survive her year at Central High School, when she was one of the Little Rock Nine desegregating the school, by remembering what Danny, a soldier from the 101st Airborne Division who was sent to the school to protect the African-American students for a while, told her. He said to her, "Warriors survive" (page 163), and she faced the segregationists as a warrior would face his or her opponents. Even when the 101st Airborne was sent back to Kentucky and the segregationists thought they could force the African-American students to leave Central High School, Melba says, "the warrior growing inside me squared my shoulders and put my mind on alert to do whatever was necessary to survive" (page 182). She dealt with everything that happened to her like a solider would. When her locker and its contents were sprayed with ink, she quickly asked for a new locker and books without brooding about it. When she was kicked in the shins, she did everything she could to stay mobile. It was not a mode that was necessarily comfortable for her, but it allowed her to survive in a very hostile climate for the school year. 

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