Plessy vs. Ferguson


Plessy vs. Ferguson set precedent that segregation did not violate the thirteenth amendment banning slavery and involuntary servitude, but that race should be distinguished by “separate but equal” policies. Brown vs. Board of Education overturned the Plessy vs. Ferguson precedent when the Supreme Court justices ruled that "the doctrine of separate but equal has no place [in the field of public education]. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." Even though segregation was ruled “inherently unequal” on a federal and constitutional level, several state governments, including Arkansas, refused to comply. That’s when Melba Pattillo Beals and eight other African American teenagers made a move that lead the Black Civil Rights movement in a positive direction by forcing the desegregation of Little Rock, Arkansas’s all white Central High School. With the help of President Eisenhower and federal troops protecting their safety, Melba and the rest of the “Little Rock Nine” integrated Central High School and influenced the state governments “separate but equal” policy regarding racial segregation without succumbing to the violence that surrounded them, without breaking any federal laws, and with bravery in the face racism, ostracism, and violence.


Warriors Don’t Cry is Melba Patillo Beals’ personal account of her junior year as one of nine black students integrating Central High School in Little Rock, Alabama in 1957. Due to the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, Gov. Faubus was ordered to integrate Alabama’s schools. Melba had volunteered in the seventh grade to be one of the students to first integrate the all white high school because she had always longed to go to school there. After many set backs from the violent opposition of the Governor of Alabama and his segregationist supporters, Melba and the other eight students begin to take classes at Central High. On a day to day basis Melba is faced with violence, racism, and ostracism in the halls of her new school as well as throughout Little Rock. All the while battles are raging in the court system to ensure that integration takes place, but the segregationist continue to fight it through the legal systems as well as taking matters into their own hands. Enduring countless violent attacks, Melba turns into a warrior and refuses to give up the fight for equality. Melba goes on to attend SFSU and integrate the dorms there.


Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Jefferson Thomas, Minnijean Brown Trickey, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Terrence Roberts, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed-Wair, and Melba Patillo Beals lead the way into the desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High School, but unfortunately met fierce opposition from their local community and state government. Law and ordinances were being passed left and right attempting to halt the desegregation process. “The Little Rock Nine” were not to be discouraged. Even the governor of Arkansas, Orvel Faubus, was against them. With the help of Daisy Bates, head of the regional NAACP, nine brave African American students entered the halls of an all white high school to uphold the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that “separate is inherently unequal”.


The people of Little Rock had lived their entire lives in severe segregation. Many black as well as white people were against segregating the schools, for fear of violence. Since many of them had never experienced a more equal society they feared desegregation would never work. Melba and the other “Little Rock Nine” forced the beginning of a strong civil rights movement by forcing the people of Little Rock and Arkansas to experience a mixed society of equality. The community was so against the idea of integration that a woman with children filed suit against the state claiming that black students were known to form gangs and incite violence and the court judged ruled in her favor. Fortunately, the federal government overruled all efforts to halt desegregation and integration was allowed to continue.


As the city began passing racist ordinances, the NAACP and Daisy Bates organized boycotts of white businesses and moved the case to federal courts were it became a nationwide constitutional crisis. Finally, with another judges ruling, the Governor Faubus was prevented from using Arkansas National Guardsmen to bar black students’ entry into the school. Three days later Melba Beals and the “Little Rock Nine” braved violent