Black, White, and Read All Over

While reading Warriors Don’t Cry, one of the prompts I was interested in was the effects of other documents being included in Beals’s memoir, specifically the newspaper headlines. While I don’t know if I agree that the headlines are a character, I do think they are a vital part of the narrative. Whereas Melba describes her personal experiences and emotions, the headlines present a standard, dry summary of the current events going on throughout Melba’s account. These headlines provide some important basic facts, and they also present how people around the country would have been learning about integration in Little Rock from an outsider’s perspective. Having both the headlines and Melba’s own story presented side by side gives and in-depth look at how she and her community felt, but also what the people on the outside looking in were seeing. The headlines also help Melba sort through her own narrative. After a headline about rising tensions in Central High, she writes “reading the article made me shudder, but it also helped me know we weren’t imagining things. It was indeed getting more and more difficult to survive inside Central” (27). Throughout the memoir, the headlines are often the bearer of bad news or, as Sam describes in his blog post, a source of increasing pressure. Yet in other situations they validate what Melba knows to be true and help her frame her own story.

The headlines also help highlight the importance of journalists and the press more broadly in Melba and her family’s life. For example, Melba’s mom uses the press to draw attention to her unfair firing and when she succeeds, Grandma India says “praise the Lord, we got us some power now” (38). Melba goes on to become a journalist herself as an adult and at the end of her memoir she says, “I always remember that it was the truth told by those reporters who came to Little Rock who kept me alive” (41). The inclusion of the headlines foreshadows her own future as a journalist while acknowledging the importance of those news articles in keeping her safe and ensuring that people around the world knew what was happening. The power of journalism, whether good or bad, is woven through Melba’s personal experiences, and including primary source newspaper headlines helps weave it into the structure of the story as well.

2 thoughts on “Black, White, and Read All Over

  1. Hi Hannah,
    What a terrific post! I really like how you talk about how the newspaper headlines parallel Melba’s personal experiences, and how they offer an outsider’s view into the boiling tensions in Little Rock. I noticed throughout the story that Melba’s diary notes were placed very close to the newspaper headlines, and I think you touch on that relationship well. I think I definitely took a more pessimistic look at the newspapers, particularly the Arkansas Gazette, but after reading your post, I gained a different perspective, as Melba became a journalist herself. I’m interested to explore more on how journalism can be used for the good and the bad of society, and how it can tell the stories that encompass society.

  2. I love this post. I agree with you that while I am unsure about the newspaper being a character-like figure in this book; it does play a huge role in weaving Melba’s perception with that of the general public. It also helps to bring the story full circle with Melba eventually becoming a journalist. This post really articulated my thoughts on the newspaper headlines, nice job!

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