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Integrating Central High: The Melba Pattillo Story

Through reading and writing activities, students explore the life of Melba Pattillo, one of the nine African American students who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957.


3–5, 6–8, 9–12

Activity Type

  • Computer Lab Activities

In Integrating Central High: The Melba Pattillo Story (grades 5 and up), which is part of the Black History in America student activity, students participate in reading and writing activities to learn about Melba Pattillo, who was part of the Little Rock Nine — the first African American students to integrate into an all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. Throughout the articles, students can click on links to other websites for further reading on the subject.

  • First, students read about the Big Decisions that led to Melba volunteering to go to the all-white Central High School.
  • First Day shares the intense scene and the resistance Melba, and her eight peers, faced.
  • Melba and the rest of the Little Rock Nine go Inside — Briefly, until they’re evacuated due to a mob storming the school.
  • Students learn how President Eisenhower reinforced that Integration Is the Law; afterward, soldiers accompanied Melba to school.
  • Students can read how Melba and her peers were Fighting to Learn, despite the horrible treatment they endured.
  • Becoming a Warrior shares how Melba came to realize she needed to be strong and stay – not just for her education, but for her race.
  • Students discover the Endings and Beginnings of Melba’s stay at Central High and how she eventually graduated in California after a scary threat from the Ku Klux Klan.
  • The Little Rock Nine gathered for a Reunion in 1997. Students can find out what Melba’s life was like then.
  • Students can read Scholastic’s exclusive Interview with Melba Pattillo.
  • How Would You Feel asks students to picture themselves in her shoes and write about it.

Learning Objectives

By participating in The Melba Pattillo Story, students will:

  • Gain insight into African American history during the civil rights movement
  • Learn about individual people who shaped history by reading their biographies and researching the age in which they lived
  • Understand the causes and effects of the civil rights movement in America
  • Hone writing skills through brief essay submissions or grade-appropriate research papers

Susan Cheyney

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