Interview with Melba Pattillo Beals
QUESTION 22
INTERVIEWER:

TELL ME, [ WHAT ] DO YOU THINK PAID THE HIGHEST PRICE AND I DON'T REALLY WANT TO GET INTO A LISTING OF PEOPLE AND WHAT THEY'RE DOING NOW? LET'S TALK ABOUT HOW EACH MIGHT EXPERIENCE IT DIFFERENTLY.

Melba Pattillo Beals:

Little Rock Nine are a unique group of people, and as I get older I realize how unique we really were. [Gap] had a heart condition when she first started and all of us used to protect her. She had a very serious heart condition, and she went through this with a heart condition. The kind of heart condition where she had to sit down on her haunches at time[sic] and she would change color, turn blue and she paid a big price. She eventually had an operation. Elizabeth Eckford perhaps has paid the major price. Elizabeth Eckford has not since Little Rock, had a—what we would call a normal life. She paid a dear price. She gave her life. The normalcy of it. I'm sure wherever she is she's fine, but she's not been able to function. I think we've all learned something. I would be a different person had I not gone to Central High School. And when I talk now to everybody, I think we all would be different, Certainly look at among us, the success, the strength, the ability to cope with life, the ability to function in the real world was increased, enhanced by that. At an early age we learned who we were. We learned, hey, you gotta stretch. I think Carlotta Walls, for example—I just saw her a little while ago—still has a tremendous case of asthma. We still cry together. I've talked to Terry Roberts, Dr. Terry Roberts. Each of us has a thin thread running through us, a semblance of the pain we endured. I am sure it has affected me in the sense of my fear of people, some of the choices I make, some of the things I do. I could be standing in line in a suburb of San Francisco waiting for a movie and look around me and all the people in that movie are waiting in line with me are white teenagers or white, and for just an instant, just an instant I'm frightened and I tell myself it's fine. So, we all pay prices, but we all gained. ‘Cause I always believe you're always where you're supposed to be. So, hey, Little Rock was a lesson, Baby. That was a lesson. A lesson that I can't forget, but a lesson that serves me.**