Melba Beals on Tuesday, May 9, 2017 in San Rafael, Ca. She is a member of the Little Rock Nine, a group of students that integrated Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas in 1957. She is the author of several books of the Civil Rights movement. (Photo/©Frankie Frost)

Beals of Little Rock Nine to speak at Birkett Williams lecture

March 29, 2019

Melba Patillo Beals, a member of the Little Rock Nine, will be the speaker at Ouachita’s Birkett Williams Endowed Lecture Series Tuesday, April 2, at 7 p.m. in Jones Performing Arts Center.

After being among the first nine African-American students to integrate Little Rock Central High School in 1957, forever changing the education system in regard to race in the south, Beals is an accomplished journalist, author and college educator. Her writings include two books, “Warriors Don’t Cry” and “I Will Not Fear.”

“There’s a line in her book’s cover that reads, ‘Her story encourages selflessness and persistent confidence that God can and will work things out for his children.’ In life, we encounter challenging situations. They may not be as challenging as hers, but we can apply what she’s learned to our lives,” said Dr. Ben Sells, president of Ouachita. “I was inspired by her book ‘I Will Not Fear: My Story of a Lifetime of Building Faith Under Fire,’ and I’m excited to meet her in person.”

Beals graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree and Columbia university with a master’s degree in journalism. She also received her doctorate in international multicultural education from the University of San Francisco.

With this year’s university’s theme of “Lives of Meaningful Work,” Beals will discuss who she is and how she got where she is today.

“Beals is a historic figure in the Civil Rights Movement, and she calls our attention to the importance of events in Arkansas to that movement. She has been a college professor, and she will relate well to college students,” said Dr. Hal Bass, professor emeritus of political science.

Bass encourages students to attend, because he believes there is both great history and wisdom to be learned, especially in this scenario which is outside of a classroom lecture.

“Much of the value of a college education is realized outside the classroom. Public lectures provide with significant learning opportunities. They broaden our horizons and give us new information and insights.  They also promote a common experience that unites the campus community that is often divided up into discrete sectors,” Bass said.

The Birkett Williams lectures are hosted by The Huckabee School of Education in hopes to give students “an opportunity to extend the concepts of a liberal arts education beyond the classroom by bringing renowned scholars and public figures to Ouachita’s campus,” according to the Ouachita News Bureau.

“We are extraordinarily pleased to have Dr. Beals come to campus and meet our students and let them hear what she has to say,” said Dr. Jeff Root, dean of Ouachita’s Huckabee School of Education and School of Humanities, according to the Ouachita News Bureau. “She has lived through some important experiences in American history, and we’re thrilled that she is coming to speak.”

Students from across campus are ecstatic about the event, especially junior Ruthie Lenards, who has had the chance to visit Little Rock Central High School in person with the Huckabee School of Education on a class field trip.

“I am excited to hear her come speak about her unique, life changing events that helped change our state and our country today. Her story has not only impacted her journey, but her readers, as well. It’ll be an honor to hear her story as I know it’ll be an honor and impact my life as well,” said Lenards, an elementary education major from Jonesboro who is also the president of Kappa Delta Pi, the National Education Honors Society.

After the lecture, Beals will also hold a book signing from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. in Walker Conference Center, where students will have the chance to meet and greet Beals, as well as get their books signed.

“The story of the nine African American students chosen to integrate Central High School in Little Rock was a significant moment in the history of our country and state. While it occurred over 60 years ago, we still have the privilege to hear from one of the students, not just read about it,” Sells said.

For more information contact Dr. Jeff Root by email at 

By Ethan Dial, online editor 

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