Melba Pattillo Beals was eager to enroll at Central High School when the opportunity arose. She stated “I thought about all those times I’d gone past Central High, wanting to go inside… I reasoned that if schools were open to my people, I would also get access to other opportunities I had been denied…” (Beals). Beals was inspired to enroll at Central High after visiting desegregated Cincinnati, Ohio. On this trip, she was treated like a full human being as opposed to being treated as less than one in the South. She also wanted to attend Central High because it had a prestigious reputation and provided much greater educational opportunities than did segregated African American schools.
When they began studying at Central High, Beals and the other members of the Little Rock Nine were consistently harassed, threatened and abused. For example, a male classmate approached Beals with a water gun filled with acid and shot the acid into her eyes. Luckily, she was able to wash the acid out in time to preserve her vision. Beals and her African American classmates endured more violence than many people can even comprehend in order to achieve racial integration in schools.
After Governor Faubus closed all of Little Rock’s High Schools, Beals moved to California, where she completed her high school education. While she was in California, she lived with sponsors who were members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She went on to earn her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from San Francisco State University. She also earned her Master of Arts in Journalism from Columbia University. Beals has gone on to work as a reporter for NBC’s Bay Area affiliate and a public television station in San Francisco. She has also done motivational speaking and worked as a communications consultant.
Beals received the Spingarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people and the Congressional Gold Medal from President Clinton. She was also the first member of the Little Rock Nine to write a book about what she experienced at Central High School. Titles of her books include Warriors Don’t Cry, March Forward, Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine, and I Will Not Fear: My Story of a Lifetime of Building Faith Under Fire. Melba Pattillo Beals is recognized for her immense role in the Civil Rights Movement.
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If you would like to learn more about your rights or believe that you have been discriminated against please visit the Civil Rights Justice Center located at 2150 N. 107th Street in Seattle Washington or visit our website at civilrightsjusticecenter.com