Lions of Little Rock

By: Kristin Levine in 1958


Little Rock Drama

This book, Lions of Little Rock focuses on how blacks and whites were segregated in 1958. It is in the perspective of Marlee, the main character. Marlee does not have many friends.The rest of her family is also extremely important to the story. Even though the whole family is white, segregation still has a tremendous impact on their family. Marlee has an older sister Judy and since Marlee does not have many friends, Judy reminds her to become friends with somebody of similar interests. Marlee takes this advice and when school starts up makes this new friend Liz. After they become good friends Liz and Marlee meet at the Zoo to get ready for the upcoming presentation. Marlee is very shy so Liz, her best friend makes her less afraid by giving her a soft feather to touch.

Marlee’s sister Judy has not gone to school for this school year because of segregation in high schools. During the school year the parents come to a conclusion of Judy being sent away to receive an education. When she figures this out she is very disappointed because she wants to be with her family. She is finally sent away to Pine Bluff to live with their grandma. When Judy is gone, Marlee gets a ton of letters saying how much Judy hates school. After school one day Marlee’s parents tell her that Liz is black and pretending to be white. She can no longer go to Marlee’s school. This is devastating news for Marlee considering that she has finally made a true friend. She decides to still do the presentation by doing both parts. Marlee’s parents also say that it is too dangerous for them to see one another anymore because they could both get in immense trouble. Marlee will not let Liz and her friendship break, though she promises to never see Liz again. Marlee and Liz come up with code names when talking on the phone and they also plan a spot to meet at every day.

The troublemaker in this book is Red. He has a brother J.T. who is in Marlee’s grade. Red is a bad person and treats Liz horribly. Marlee and Liz know that Red hides dynamite in the trunk of his car, so when they see Red at the Zoo they very sneakily take his key. There were two keys and Marlee only took one. Liz and Marlee were hopeful it was the right key. When they get to his car, Liz and Marlee found out that it is the right key. Marlee reaches for the last sticks of dynamite and gets locked in the trunk. She can not get out and for some reason Liz can not get her out either. Red and his friend come back, but never look in the trunk and find Marlee.When the car stops and Marlee hears them get out, she tries to get out too. Finally she does and quietly runs into the forest. David her older brother picks her up and they drive home.

In the end of the book Marlee’s family makes enormous contributions for the town. There are two groups, STOP and CROSS. CROSS supports segregation and STOP supports integration. In order for people to vote in the election for a group they have to get many people to sign a petition. Marlee’s family supports integration and if they can get this to happen Judy will come home. They ask friends to help out and get people to sign the petition. The Nisbett Family works very hard and the outcome of being apart of the election is a success. STOP ends up winning and this is a huge break for Little Rock, Arkansas! The town still needs to work out some things but the idea is a success!

Little Rock's Mixing Races Still a Problem

Character Traits

Trait: Courageous

A good trait to describe Marlee is courageous. For example, Marlee got this phone call from someone saying something like, “You black lover, if you do not stop hanging out with Liz I’ll get you for it.” Marlee was scared, but decided not to tell her parents because she wanted to remain going to the WEC. (women’s emergency committee) If she told them Marlee would not have been allowed to remain going to the WEC. Another good example of Marlee being courageous is that she is friends with a black girl Liz. The town hates the fact that Marlee hangs out with Liz because blacks and whites are segregated. She even met her at the Negro movie theater and Marlee was the only white girl their, except for Betty Jean, who works at Marlee’s family’s house. A third example of Marlee being courageous is that she always worked with Liz to face her fear of being quiet and not talking in class. Liz, her best friend always meets her at the Zoo and taught Marlee that if she could talk in front of the animals, she could do a presentation for the class with Liz. They would meet almost every day in front of the animals. Soon Marlee got into the habit of talking. Most of Marlee’s talking was to her family and Liz. A week before the presentation, Liz gave Marlee this lucky feather so that whenever Marlee was nervous she would have something to touch. The next weekend Marlee found out some heartbreaking news. Her mother told her that Liz was pretending to be white and is actually black. Her mom told her she that Liz is no longer allowed to go to Marlee’s school. The day Marlee went back she decided to do the presentation without Liz and speak both parts. These are some examples of Marlee being tremendously brave!

Integration or Segregation?

Spotlight on History

1. The characters use the term colored. This is know not an acceptable term to people who are black. This made me start to understand that this took place in the 50’s because we do not call people colored. “Could it be true? Can a girl be white one day and colored the next?” (This was Marlee wondering what happened to Liz)

2. Blacks go to a different movie theater. They were not allowed to go to the white theater. This made me understand that this time period was the 50’s because now everybody goes to the same theater. Your race does not matter.“What are you doing here?” (Liz said to this Marlee because it is the black theater that Marlee is attending)

3. It is dangerous for blacks and whites to hang out with each other. This made me start to understand when this took place because now people that are white are best friends with blacks and do not have to worry about the consequences. “I mean it, Marlee. I don’t want to scare you too much- I’ll keep you safe-but I want you to be careful. Which means staying away from Liz.” (Marlee’s black friend)

4. The Little Rock Nine was talked about. This gave me the hint that it took place in this time period because I know when they became famous and attended high schools. “For the first time nine negroes had enrolled: Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Pattillo, Gloria Ray, Jefferson Thomas, and Carlotta Walls. That was a mouthful, so people just started calling them the Little Rock Nine.”

5. The high schools were closed due to segregation. This gave me the hint of the time period because I know when segregation was a problem. “Since it remains that the schools are going to remain closed indefinitely,” and she’s (Judy, Marlee’s older sister) already missed a month of school, Judy is going to go to live with Granny in Pine Bluff. She’ll go to school there.”

A New Life

Story's Place in Time

1. Civil Rights movement began when Rosa Parks would not give up her seat for a white person on the bus. This happened in Montgomery, Alabama and successfully led to integration and everyone being treated equally. (December 1, 1955)

2. Martin Luther King was assassinated by a sniper’s bullet. He was shot by James Earl Ray in Memphis, TN. (April 4, 1968)

3. Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon and traveled there on a spaceship. This was an amazing accomplishment and marked the beginning of men exploring space. (1969)

4. Sixty Americans were taken as hostages in the Iranian Crisis. The reasons the Iranians did this is because they opposed America interfering with their problems and did not think it was fair that a politician who was expelled from Iraq could come to the United States to treat his cancer. They kept hostages for over a year and it was a dramatic event in U.S. history. (November 4, 1979)

5. On September 11, 2001 in New York City, a group of terrorists called Al Qaeda deliberately crashed two planes into the World Trade Center killing nearly three thousand innocent Americans and themselves.

6. Barack Obama was the first African American person to be elected as the U.S. President. He officially became president on November 4, 2008.

7. Hurricane Sandy occurred very recently. It wiped out many cities and hundreds of thousands of people lost power and heat for several days. In the New York region, Sandy had devastating effects. (October 29, 2012)