Carlotta Walls LaNier: A Mighty Long Way

Carlotta Walls LaNier made history 52 years ago as one of The Little Rock Nine. After years of silence, Lanier shares her story for the first time with her new book.
Monday, November 16, 2009
6:30 pm
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Staff Picks: The Little Rock Nine: Everyday Heroes of Civil Rights

Carlotta Walls LaNier made history 52 years ago as one of "The Little Rock Nine." After years of silence, LaNier shares her story for the first time with her book A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School.

On September 25, 1957, LaNier and eight other students only wanted to make it to class. Descended from a line of proud black landowners and businessmen, LaNier was raised to believe that education was the key to success and she excelled in her studies at segregated schools throughout the 1950s. With Brown v. Board of Education erasing the classroom color divide, the teenager volunteered to be among the first black students—of whom she was the youngest—to integrate Central High School.

But for LaNier and her eight comrades, getting through the door was the first of many trials. Angry mobs of white students and their parents hurled insults and threats. Arkansas’ governor used the National Guard to bar the black students from entering the school. Finally, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was forced to send in the 101st Airborne to escort the Nine into the building. That was the start of a heartbreaking three-year journey for LaNier. But she persevered and eventually graduated from Central.

Complete with photographs of the time, A Mighty Long Way shines a light on this watershed moment in civil rights history and shows that determination, fortitude, and the ability to change the world are not exclusive to a few special people, but are inherent within us all.

The book was co-authored by Lisa Frazier Page. Former President Bill Clinton wrote the introduction.