By Chris Turner
“Are you gonna let that n—r coon sit in our class?’ a boy shouted at me. ‘We can kick the crap out of this n—-r. Look, it’s 20 of us and one of her. They ain’t nothing but animals …Go back where you came from.’ ” — From Warriors Don’t Cry
I don’t recall ever reading a book as emotionally taxing as, Warriors Don’t Cry, by Melba Pattillo Beals, one of the “Little Rock Nine” who integrated Central High School in 1957. The amount of physical brutality and emotional abuse those children — children my daughter’s age — faced every day for the entire school year is incomprehensible. They endured attempted lynchings, beatings, acid in the eyes, constantly being spit on, being trapped in bathroom stalls while white students stood on toilets in adjacent stalls and rained burning paper on them, and so much more, just because they were black.
The cruelty was inhumane; it was satanic. At times, Melba’s story physically nauseated me. White parents and their children went to extremes to drive them from Central High. For example, parents employed Ku Klux Klan psychologists to coach the students on how to make life hell for Melba and her classmates. The book is a raw look at racism, prejudice and segregation in the South in the 1950s. [Read more…]