Book Discussion Guide

Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals

Warriors Don’t Cry is the remarkable autobiographical story written by one of the nine teenagers who were the first black students to integrate public schools in the South during the Civil Rights Movement. As a champion of change, Melba Pattillo Beals tells the story of her life and experiences as one of the Little Rock Nine who changed
history as the first step toward equality in education for all American students. Your family will learn so much from this first-hand account about the injustices, struggles, and sacrifice these young people made in the name of justice. It would be a wonderful book to read out loud or independently, as you will want to talk about the history of the Civil Rights Movement in America and how different life used to be. This memoir is a great way to learn about this important time in our history through the eyes of a young person who was actually there living through it.

Questions To Talk About
While Reading


It's important to make sure that your child has an understanding of key words in the book. Talking about words while reading is a great way for your child to learn new words.

In this book, you might talk about these words:

  • heroine (pg. xi)
  • indignant (pg. 2)
  • integrate (pg. 19)
  • sauntered (pg. 21)
  • vulnerable (pg. 29)
  • segregationists (pg. 30)
  • beckoning (pg. 49)
  • unsympathetic (pg. 108)
  • subsiding (pg. 122)
  • hooligans (pg. 143)
  • entrapment (pg. 143)
  • hostile (pg. 157)
  • retaliation (pg. 162)
  • immaculate (pg. 199)

You might use a question like:

Use details from the book to figure out what integration means. What does it mean to integrate and how is it important in this story?

Key Ideas and Themes

In addition to words, it's important to talk about key ideas and themes and how they develop over the course of the book.

Here are some examples to get you started:

  • 1

    Talk about the main motivation behind the action of the Little Rock Nine. Why were they so willing to put themselves in such a dangerous position for the sake of justice?

  • 2

    Were you offended by any of the events that took place in this book? What scenes really bothered you? Why?

  • 3

    Who are some of the important political or historical activists mentioned in this book that played a role in abolishing segregation in schools? What role did each of them play in bringing equality to American students?

  • 4

    Describe the classroom and school setting of Little Rock Central High School. Compare it to your own school. How is your school different Little Rock Central? In what ways are they similar?

  • 5

    What role does family play in helping Melba and the other children of the Little Rock Nine get through these difficult times?

  • 6

    Melba’s grandmother states that Melba is a “warrior on the battlefield for you Lord.” In what ways are Melba and the rest of the Little Rock Nine warriors? What qualities do these young people share with warriors on the battlefield? What are some examples of the specific battles they face?

Extra Activities

  • 1

    Watch the movie The Ernest Green Story, which also tells the story of the Little Rock Nine from another one of the nine, Ernest Green. Compare and contrast how Ernest’s point of view is similar to or different from Melba’s experience. Create a T-chart or Venn diagram to help you.

  • 2

    Read the epilogue at the end of the book, Little Rock Warriors Thirty Years Later. Do some research of your own to find out about the lives of each of the Little Rock Nine after their high school years. Where are they now?