Interview with Melba Pattillo Beals
QUESTION 3
INTERVIEWER:

WOULD YOU PLEASE TELL ME, WHY DID YOU WANT TO GO TO CENTRAL HIGH? WHY? YOU'RE [A] YOUNG BLACK GIRL, UNDERSTANDING ALL THE THINGS GOING ON IN LITTLE ROCK AND YOUR POSITION, WHY DID YOU WANT—

Melba Pattillo Beals:

OK, let's take the heroism away right now and understand that Little Rock was a quiet reservation. And there was no thought on my part, no thought on any of our parts that when we went to Central High School it would trigger this terrible catastrophe. I wanted to go because they had more privileges. They had more equipment, they had five floors of opportunities. For me, I understood education before I understood anything else. From the time I was two, my mother said, "You will go to college. Education is your key to survival," and I understood that. And it was a kind of curiosity. It was not an overwhelming desire to go to this school and integrate this school and change history. Oh no, there was none of that.** There was just, be fun to go to this school I ride by everyday, I want to know what's in there. I don't necessarily want to be with those people, I assumed that being with those people would be no different than being with the people I was already with. I had no idea, none whatsoever, until the adventure started that it would be this way. And my getting into Central High School was somewhat almost of an accident. I simply raised my hand one day when they said, "Who of you lives in the area of Central High School?" Then, that was two years before, in 1955, and they said, you know who has good grades, and I had excellent grades. It was an accident of fate.