Melba Pattillo Beals

Melba Pattillo Beals: Libraries in a segregated world

"The library has played a major part in my life."

I was born in 1941, on Pearl Harbor Day. So in the early fifties you could not, as a black person, go into a public library really.

But my mother was a librarian all of her and so she had an enormous number of books at home. And my grandmother was a maid in white ladies' kitchens.

They would throw books out and she would bring them home and repair them for us. So we always had an abundance of books and my grandmother would read to me.

And during the Central High crisis, when we were closed out of school and I couldn't go there, I was into civil rights and they didn't necessarily want me to come to their library, my mother took me to a library where I read and it was like the opening of my world.

So now, as a professor, all these years later, I'm 67 and I'm a professor. Guess where my office is. It's in the rear of the library. And so I love being in the library and the librarian will come over sometimes and say, "Look, we've this new book. Do you want to see it?" And it's a wonderful, wonderful life that I live with libraries.

When I turned 50, I adopted a couple of little boys. They're identical twins. The first place I started to take them, when they were four, was to the library with regular visiting days and then to get books.

So the library has always played a major part of my life. I just finished getting a doctorate degree at the University of San Francisco and of course you can't get a doctorate at any time without the library helping you.

The librarian is the key to your success if you're doing research, and how are you going to get out of that without the library?

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Book Title: 

Warriors Don't Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock's Central High