Personality Traits of Melba Pattillo Beals in “Warriors Don’t Cry”

Racial segregation remains one of the most shameful blemishes on the history of the United States. As introspect into the specified time slot shows, introducing regulations aimed at the integration of institutions and communities was failing due to the misalignment between the blatant racism of American society and the idea of integration. In her memoir “Warriors Don’t Cry,” Melba Pattillo Beals studies the complexity of interpersonal relationships and the gradual change in people’s perspective on cross-cultural interactions. While Beals does not focus specifically on painting a detailed mental portrait of herself in the book, her personality traits, such as courage, resourcefulness, and the willingness to grow as a person, leap from pages.

The ability to change and improve, learning from her environment, and choosing her path wisely, is one of Melba’s main characteristics. Remarkably, the memoir never depicts Melba as the born leader and fighter for the rights of her community. Instead, she starts her journey as a regular teenager, being slightly shy and very innocent. However, after confronting the dark reality of racism in the newly integrated setting of her school, she recognizes the need to face it, which sows her surprising resilience. Melba has to learn from her grandmother, who tells her, “You’ll make this your last cry. You’re a warrior on the battlefield” (Beals, 2011, p. 44). Therefore, the protagonist is portrayed from a humanistic perspective as someone who needs to grow and change in order to confront injustice. As a result, Melba becomes very relatable and inspiring to readers.

In addition, Beals’ character shows amazing resilience and the ability to pull the available resources in order to stand for herself. Namely, she chooses to explore journalism as the area that will not only help her to learn new skills but also give her voice as a representative of the African American community. The significance of the specified choice might not be apparent at first, yet, in the context of Beals’ further speculations on the voice of the African American community, it gains tremendous significance. As Beals (2011, p. 222) explains, “The effort to separate ourselves whether by race, creed, color, religion, or status is as costly to the separator as to those who would be separated.” Therefore, the resourcefulness of her character is what makes her stand out noticeably from the rest of her peers.

Finally, Melba’s courage constitutes a vital part of her personality. Although the protagonist’s bravery does not shine through immediately, she learns to be a fighter very fast and does not hesitate to confront the hostile situations in which she faces injustice. Sadly, the author explains that, as she acquired the ability to fight, she lost an important part of herself: “I think only the warrior exists in me now. Melba went away to hide” (Beals, 2011, p. 170). However, the courage that Melba had to summon in order to face the tremendous injustice of racism indicates that her bravery represents a major character trait of hrs.

Despite the focus of the book being primarily on capturing the spirit of the era and the problems of the integration process, the memoir captures the brave and resourceful personality of the narrator perfectly, thus painting her as courageous and smart. More importantly, the book shows the slow progression of her character from an average teenage girl to a fighter, who would stand for the rights, as well as for the rights of other students, in the face of rampant racism. Beals does not idealize her teenage self but, instead, paints a relatable portrait of a teenager who had to rise to the occasion and learn to fight for her rights.


Beals, M. P. (2011). Warriors Don’t Cry. Tantor eBooks.

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