Winner of the American Library Association Award
Robert F. Kennedy Book Award
The American Booksellers’ Association Award
It was fall 1957, nine Little Rock, African-American school children had entered a new world: the previously whites-only Central High School. Their quest: equality in education.
The following is an excerpt from Melba Pattillo Beals’ memoir of her experiences as one of nine youths chosen to desegregate Central.
“What is the price of freedom?
I looked up to see my guide entering the classroom. Something was awfully wrong. It was written all over her face.
“Come with me now. To the principal’s office,” she called out nervously.
I was led to an office where some of the eight had gathered. Two of the girls were crying. I stood near the door, which was ajar enough so that I could hear much of the white men’s conversations. I heard their frantic tone of voice, heard them say the mob was out of control. “What are we gonna do about the nigger children?” asked one.
“The crowd is moving fast. They’ve broken the barricades. These kids are trapped in here.”
“Good lord, you’re right,” another voice said. “We may have to let the mob have one of these kids, so’s we can distract them long enough to get the others out.”
“They’re children. What’ll we do, have them draw straws to see which one gets a rope around their neck?” — Warriors Don’t Cry, Melba Pattillo Beals