Interview with Melba Pattillo Beals
QUESTION 20
INTERVIEWER:

—WHAT YOU DID THE DAY SCHOOL ENDED AND WHAT WAS YOUR FEELING AT THAT TIME?

Melba Pattillo Beals:

By the time school had ended, I had sort of settled into myself and I could've gone for the next five years. It didn't matter any more. I was past feeling, I was a—I was into just that numb pain where you just say, "I can make it, do what ever you like," and it just doesn't matter anymore. But I came home and, and by myself I walked to the back yard and burned my books and I burned everything that I could burn and I just stood there crying looking into the fire and wondering whether I would go back, but not wanting to go back.** And realizing by then the magnitude of what I had done because you know I had heard all these adults say you've made these inroads for generations yet unborn and, you know, I realized that it was important to do that and realizing also by this time the danger. It's just like everything hit me. I knew what I had done, but if school had gone on one more day, I wouldn't have made it. At that point, I wanted, I needed that break, and yet, I knew that I had learned a lesson that would serve me all the rest of my life ‘cause I knew then that nobody, not another human being certainly, could break me, because I had, I had learned the limits of Melba, I knew how far she could go then and I knew that her strength depended on God, and not on what somebody else did to her outside, and that was the best lesson I ever learned.