Justification for Teaching

Warriors Don't Cry is an autobiography by Melba Pattillo Beals, one of the nine students selected to join Little Rock Central High School, in Little Rock, Arkansas, as the first African-American students in what had previously been an all-white school.

You can pair this nonfiction work with other texts that depict events of the Civil Rights Movement, and it's a great text to use in a cross-curricular unit with members of your Social Studies/History department.

Warriors Don't Cry teaches students about self-reliance and inner strength, qualities that Melba Pattillo Beals had to have and demonstrate throughout the integration process. The book will help students understand the hardships and dangers that victims of racism face daily.

Content Warning

Warriors Don't Cry contains a description of an attempted sexual assault and harsh language.


When Melba Pattillo Beals was 13 years old, she was selected to participate in the integration of Little Rock Central High School, an all-white school. Along with eight other students, Melba was one of the first African-American students to act upon the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision to integrate educational institutions in the United States. In Warriors Don’t Cry, Melba recalls and reflects upon her experience, detail after frightening, eye-opening detail.

Key Elements and Techniques

  • Autobiography
  • Symbolism
  • Idiom
  • Verbal Irony
  • Metaphor
  • Simile
  • Narrative
  • Nonfiction

Themes and Motifs

  • Racial Discrimination — Warriors Don't Cry exposes the realities of racial discrimination in the 1950s.
  • Resilience — In the words of Melba's grandmother: "God's warriors don't cry." In Melba's story, resilience shines through despite grueling challenges.
  • Social Change — The events at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas sparked significant social change in the United States, paving the way for all other African-American students to attend the same schools as white students.

Related Works

Themes of Racial Discrimination


Themes of Resilience


Themes of Social Change

Key Facts

  • Length: 336 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 1000
  • Publication Date: 1994
  • Recommended Grade Band: 7 – 9


  • American Library Association's Nonfiction Book of the Year in 1995
  • Robert F. Kennedy Book Award

Your students will love:

  • The strength and inspiration of the Little Rock Nine
  • Melba's family's wit

Students may have problems with:

  • The cruelty that Melba and the other eight students endure daily

More Teacher's Guides to Literature:

See all our Teacher's Guides to Literature here.

Warriors Don't Cry