Interview with Melba Pattillo Beals

BEGIN TO TELL ME ABOUT—[unintelligible]

Melba Pattillo Beals:

You know, there were six girls and there were three boys among the Little Rock Nine. We'd all known each other. The first year I went to school, I went with Terry Roberts. So we'd all known each other very well. Minnie Jean Brown was, for all intents and purposes, a very good friend. We had known each other. We lived a block apart and we were buddies. We walked to school together, we talked, we visited, we ate meals together. Our parents knew each other. She was a big woman, tall, 5'8" about, and pensive, thoughtful and creative. Very much a kind woman, kind girl growing up, and fun. Minnie Jean was under a great amount of stress because we were big, because the both of us were big, we would usually be singled out for more attention. Minnie Jean at the time was also fair-skinned with reddish hair and strong, you know, a really strong spirit and feisty, and I could see day-by-day a little bit of her being chewed away at. She had, you know, maybe it was because it was the nature of her support system at home, or just because she was tired, she got picked on I think, a little bit more than other people did. We all got picked on, but I could just see everyday a little bit of her automatically telling herself, "No, I can't hit back. No, I can't do this." And yet, going further out in the edge just like all of us were. And then came the day that she was in that cafeteria and she just couldn't handle it anymore and so, she just gave up. And she knew, she had, I could just see her little head click. She consciously said to herself, "No, Minnie Jean, if you do this you know you won't be here, but then this was a time of the year when we all didn't want to be there."** I wanted to be dead. I wanted to be away from there, however I got away from it. She found a way out. She found a way out. And I was so jealous, I went to her house afterwards and she got all these new clothes and she was packing up and she was going away, and I wanted to go with her. But I knew I couldn't. But Minnie Jean Brown was a neat human being, is a neat human being, and she did—she gave her all, she gave her personal best. If she had stayed beyond that point, she would've gone nuts.