Melba Patillo Beals
The main character and narrator of Warriors Don’t
. Melba is one of the Little Rock Nine (i.e., the first black
students in the United States to attend a previously all-white high school). She
fights racism in its many forms throughout her life.
in-depth analysis of Melba Patillo Beals.
Melba’s grandmother. Grandma India is one of the most influential
figures in Melba’s life. She is a deeply religious woman who provides Melba with
a deep sense of purpose. It is Grandma India who tells Melba that warriors don’t
cry, thus providing her with the title of her memoir.
in-depth analysis of Grandma India.
A white student who befriends Melba. Link has a close relationship
with his Nanny, who is black, which leads him to empathize with Melba. Though
Link helps Melba in her fight against the segregationists, he never publicly
declares his friendship with her.
in-depth analysis of Link.
Melba’s younger brother. As an adult, Conrad becomes the first and
only black captain of the Arkansas State Troopers.
Melba’s mother, also called Mother Lois. Lois teaches English at a
Little Rock high school, and, at the time of the book’s events, is separated
from Melba’s father, Will.
Also called “Papa Will.” Will is Melba’s father. He leaves the family
before the events of the book unfold. Will objects to the integration effort.
The superintendent of Little Rock’s schools. He supports the plan for
integration, but he does little to enforce it or protect the
One of the Little Rock Nine. Minnijean is Melba’s closest friend in
the group. She is eventually expelled from Central for “fighting” and is sent to
New York to attend school. Minnijean eventually becomes a Canadian citizen and
lives on a farm as a writer and a mother.
Link’s nanny from childhood. Nana Healey is black, and Link has a
very close relationship with her.
Grandma India’s shotgun.
A white Central High student who is especially vicious toward
Mrs. C. Daisy Bates
The president of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People) in Little Rock. Mrs. Bates also runs a local newspaper, the
Arkansas State Press
, which champions
The general in charge of the Arkansas National Guardsmen who are
supposed to be guarding the Nine.
Melba’s boyfriend. He and Melba break up as a result of her transfer
A governor of Arkansas, later the president of the United States.
When Melba returns to Arkansas to be honored with the rest of the Little Rock
Nine, Governor Clinton treats them with kindness and respect, in stark contrast
to former Governor Faubus.
A federal judge from Nebraska who orders Governor Faubus of Arkansas
to allow integration to continue.
A white soldier with the 101st Airborne Division (the elite fighting
force that President Eisenhower assigned to protect the African-American
students at Central High School). Danny is assigned to protect Melba—at one
point saving her from acid that is thrown toward her eyes.
One of the “Little Rock Nine,” the nine African-American students who
participated in the 1957 integration of Little Rock’s Central High School. On
the first day that Elizabeth attempts to enter the school, she is confronted by
the Arkansas National Guard and almost attacked by an angry white mob. She is
escorted away from the crowd by two white people, Grace Lorch and Benjamin Fine.
As an adult, Elizabeth is the only one of the nine to remain in Little Rock. She
holds a job as a social worker.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
The then-president of the United States, Eisenhower proclaims that
Governor Faubus is not allowed to defy the federal order to desegregate schools.
When Faubus sends in the Arkansas National Guard to keep the African-American
students out of Central High School, President Eisenhower responds by sending
the elite 101st Airborne Division to escort the Little Rock Nine into Central
Governor of Arkansas in 1957. Faubus gives the order to keep the
African-American students out of Central High School, and orders armed Arkansas
National Guardsmen to prevent Melba and her friends from entering the
A white reporter for the New York Times
Elizabeth Eckford from a mob of segregationists on her first day at Central High
A “moderate” Central High School student who attends the meeting with
Mrs. Jorumn Rickets. He is called moderate because he does not advocate violence
to keep the Nine out of Central.
A three-hundred–pound soldier with the 101st Airborne Division.
Goggles is called in whenever any of the nine is facing major problems with the
kids at school.
One of the Little Rock Nine, and the oldest of the group.
Ernest is the first African-American student to graduate from
Central High School. After his graduation, integration is halted for three
years. Ernest eventually becomes vice president of a company called Shearson
J. Edgar Hoover
The director of the FBI. He dismisses Faubus’s outrageous claims that
the FBI is holding white students for questioning.
The vice principal of Central High School. Mrs. Huckaby can’t protect
the African-American students, but she does her best to control some of their
attackers. Toward the end of the year, she essentially gives up.
Judge Harry Lemley
An Arkansas judge who is assigned to the Little Rock integration case
after Judge Davies is removed.
A white woman who protects Elizabeth Eckford from a mob of
segregationists on her first day at Central High School.
The mayor of Little Rock, who opposes Governor Faubus and supports
A crazy young girl in Melba’s community. Marissa saves Melba from a
white man who tries to rape her when the announcement of Brown v. the Board of
Education is made in 1954.
Melba’s good friend—not one of the Little Rock Nine—who eventually
begins to avoid Melba’s company, as she fears violence.
The lawyer who argues on behalf of Linda Brown in the historic Brown
v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. As chief counsel for the NAACP (the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Marshall supports
the Little Rock Nine’s efforts to integrate their school. Marshall goes on to
become the first black justice on the Supreme Court of the United
The principal of Central High School in Little Rock.
A white Quaker woman from Santa Rosa, California. The McCabe family
takes Melba in after Governor Faubus shuts down the Little Rock high
Dr. George McCabe
A white Quaker man from Santa Rosa, California, whose family takes
Melba in after Governor Faubus shuts down the Little Rock high schools. His wife
One of the Little Rock Nine. Thelma has a heart problem that
sometimes makes her breathless and weak. Thelma later becomes a teacher in
Sammy Dean Parker
A staunch segregationist and one of the main white troublemakers at
Central High School. She is one of the white students who meet with the black
students at the request of a Norwegian reporter named Mrs. Jorumn
Melba’s shorthand teacher, and one of the few teachers at Central who
disciplines the unruly segregationists.
One of the Little Rock Nine. She later becomes a magazine
Mrs. Jorumn Rickets
A Norwegian reporter who arranges for a meeting between some of
Central High School’s staunchest segregationists and some of the
One of the Little Rock Nine, Terry is a junior like Melba. Terry
eventually becomes a professor at UCLA.
The driver of the station wagon that Melba takes to school under the
supervision of the 101st Airborne. Sarge is friendly and
Bishop O.J. Sherman
A powerful cleric in the black community. He gets Melba’s mother her
The Little Rock assistant chief of police. Smith rescues Melba and
the other African-American students from the mob that surrounds Central High
School on their first day of class.
One of the Little Rock Nine, Jefferson is an athlete and a top
student. He eventually becomes an accountant for the Defense Department in
One of the Little Rock Nine. Carlotta eventually becomes a realtor in