1. Big Decisions
2. First Day
3. Inside-Briefly
4. Integration Is the Law
5. Fighting to Learn
6. Becoming a Warrior
7. Endings and
8. Reunion
9. Interview

Melba Pattillo Home

Big Decisions

The year is 1954. Melba Pattillo is twelve years old, smart, and black. She has good teachers in her all-black school in Little Rock, Arkansas. But nothing else is nearly as nice as in the white children's schools. Melba's school is freezing in winter. Her books are old and worn. Schools for black children are supposed to be "equal" with those of white children. But they're not.

Then, on May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court rules that separate public schools are illegal. The justices say that communities like Little Rock must let black children go to school with white children.

On that very day, Melba is attacked by a white man. "You'll never go to school with my kids," he snarls. Luckily, Melba is saved by a friend before the man can make good on his threat.

The next year, in May 1955, Melba volunteers to go to the all-white Central High School. She is not afraid, even though she has seen firsthand that some white people are ready to use violence to stop integration. Two years later, in September 1957, she's enrolled as a student at Central High.

Melba is now fifteen years old. Her life is about to change forever.