Warriors Don't Cry

by Melba Pattillo Beals

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What qualities does Melba attribute to Thurgood Marshall in Warriors Don't Cry?

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Melba says that the "famous lawyer", Thurgood Marshall, has a commanding presence.  Mr. Marshall is more than six feet tall, with fair skin, brown hair, and a mustache.  He speaks "confidently, in a way that (makes Melba) feel that (she) deserve(s) to be admitted to Central High".  Melba marvels that Mr. Marshall seems to have "none of the fears and hesitation of (her) parents or the other adults around (her)".  She says that he has "a self-assured air about him as though he (has) seen the promised land and (knows) for certain (that they) could get there".  Thurgood Marshall, in Melba's estimation, believes in himself.  He has personally experienced freedom in his life, and it shows "in his every word, his every movement, in the way he (sits) tall in his seat".

Melba meets Mr. Marshall at a press conference where she and the other eight students chosen to integrate Central High School will be interviewed.  Governor Faubus has successfully prevented the action from occurring to this point in defiance of the law, and the press conference is scheduled to take place just before the court hearing where the Governor would be called to account.  Melba is nervous, afraid that if she is questioned, she will have to tell about the life-threatening experience she and her mother endured at the hands of the angry mob on her first attempt to attend Central High, information she fears will further fuel the audacious tendency towards violence of the segregationists.  As she listens to Mr. Marshall speak, however, Melba draws hope from his positive attitude, and begins to believe that "the scales of justice (are) weighted on (their) side".  Melba finds Mr. Thurgood Marshall's strong, steady presence to be an inspiration, and "there is no doubt in (her) mind that if any soul on this earth could get (them) into Central High, this great man...(is) the one" (Chapter 8).

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