Written by: Melba Pattillo Beals
Narrated by: Lisa Renee Pitts
Publication Info: Audio published 2011, Tantor Media; Book published 1995, Pocket Books
One Line: Melba Beals was one of nine black teenagers chosen to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957 after the Brown v. Board of Education 1954 ruling. This is the story of her difficult year at Central.
Brief Summary: Melba Patillo Beals was one of nine black teenagers chosen to integrate Little Rock’s Central High in 1957. Before that, she was a normal girl, living with her mother, younger brother, and beloved and wise grandmother India. The family went to church and focused on Melba’s education – despite hardships, her mother had been able to get a master’s in education and was a teacher. When Melba was chosen to integrate, her family was at first upset – they didn’t even know she had applied – but then her grandmother felt it was her duty. The group of students was known as the Little Rock Nine, and they faced daily bullying, threats, and violence. One of the students was even expelled. Melba’s life was turned entirely upside-down, with threats coming to her family as well. She lost her friends from home and could barely go out in public. Somehow, though, Melba made it through the year, through the support of her family and some unlikely friends, and one of the students – the only senior – even graduated from Central that year. It didn’t totally change things, though: the governor closed schools the next year rather than continue integration, and Melba was sent to live with a white family in California to finish high school, eventually graduating from college, graduate school, and becoming a journalist and author.
Thoughts: Voiced by Lisa Renee Pitts, this audiobook is compelling and educational, if at times repetitive. Pitts does a good job with the various voices, with Melba, her grandmother, and Link, a white boy who helps Melba, as
That being said, this is an important story in Civil Rights History, and it uses Beals’ own diaries, making it extremely authentic. The themes of tolerance and of passive resistance are highlighted, as Melba turns the tables on her attackers when she stops reacting to them. It also highlights the absurdity and stupidity of treating any humans as “less than” any others. It is definitely worth listening to or reading.
Author Information: From www.littlerock9.com: “Dr. Beals grew up surrounded by family members who knew the importance of education. Her mother, Lois, was one of the first African Americans to graduate from the University of Arkansas in 1954. While attending all-black Horace Mann High School, Dr. Beals knew her educational opportunities were not equal to her white counterparts’ at Central High, leading her to be a part of the effort to integrate that school. She recalled that the soldier assigned to protect her instructed her that “In order to get through this year, you will have to become a soldier. Never let your enemy know what you are feeling.” She took the soldier’s advice, finishing the school year. Barred from returning to Central the following year when the city’s schools were closed, Dr. Beals moved to Santa Rosa, California, to live with a sponsoring family, Dr. & Mrs. George McCabe, who were members of the NAACP, for her senior year of high school.
Dr. Beals graduated from San Francisco State University with a BA in journalism, and earned an MA from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, in New York, and earned her Ph.D. from the University of San Francisco. She has worked as a reporter for San Francisco’s public television station and for the Bay area’s NBC affiliate. She has written numerous articles for periodicals including People, Essence and the San Francisco Examiner. In addition, Dr. Beals is the author of White is a State of Mind, a sequel to Warriors Don’ Cry.
Dr. Beals is a recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, the Spingarn Medal and the Congressional Gold Medal, and she is a much sought after communications consultant and motivational speaker. Dr. Beals is Chair of the Communications Department at Dominican University, in San Rafael, California.
Dr. Beals is the mother of 16-year-old identical twins, Evan and Matthew Pattillo, and an adult daughter, Kellie, a doctoral candidate in psychology. Dr. Beals and her children live in the San Francisco Bay Area.”
Narrator Info: Lisa Renee Pitts is an actress who has appeared in television, film, and theater, and narrator of books from her home recording studio in Los Angeles, CA. Her resume can be found here: http://www.lisareneepitts.com/resume.html.