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Carlotta Walls LaNier made history as the youngest member of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1957.
The oldest of three daughters, Carlotta Walls was born on December 18, 1942, in Little Rock to Juanita and Cartelyou Walls. Her father was a brick mason and a World War II veteran, and her mother was a secretary in the Office of Public Housing.
Inspired by Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger sparked the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, as well as the desire to get the best education available, Walls enrolled in Central High School as a sophomore. Some white students called her names and spat on her, and armed guards had to escort her to classes, but she concentrated on her studies and protected herself throughout the school year. Walls and every other Little Rock student were barred from attending Central the next year, when all four Little Rock high schools were closed, but she returned to Central High and graduated in 1960.
Walls attended Michigan State University for two years in the early 1960s before moving with her family to Denver. (Her father could not get work locally after the 1957 crisis.) In 1968, she earned a BS from Colorado State College (now the University of Northern Colorado) and began working at the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) as a program administrator for teenagers.
Also in 1968, Walls married Ira C. “Ike” LaNier, with whom she had a son and a daughter. In 1977, she founded LaNier and Company, a real estate brokerage firm in Denver. She currently resides in Englewood, Colorado.
LaNier was awarded the prestigious Spingarn Medal by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), along with the other Little Rock Nine and Daisy Bates, in 1958. She has also served as president of the Little Rock Nine Foundation, a scholarship organization dedicated to ensuring equal access to education for African Americans, and is a trustee for the Iliff School of Theology and the University of Northern Colorado. In 1999, President Bill Clinton presented the nation’s highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal, to the members of the Little Rock Nine. In 2009, she published her memoir, A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School. In October 2015, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.
For additional information:
Bates, Daisy. The Long Shadow of Little Rock. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1986.
Beals, Melba Pattillo. Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Desegregate Little Rock’s Central High School. New York: Washington Square Books, 1994.
Jacoway, Elizabeth, and C. Fred Williams, eds. Understanding the Little Rock Crisis: An Exercise in Remembrance and Reconciliation. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1999.
LaNier, Carlotta Walls. “New Dress, New School: My Sophomore Year at Central High School.” FRANK (Fall/Winter 2007): 46–47.
LaNier, Carlotta Walls, and Lisa Frazier Page. A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School. New York: One World/Ballantine, 2009.
Roy, Beth. Bitters in the Honey: Tales of Hope and Disappointment across Divides of Race and Time. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1999.
Williams, Helaine R. “Carlotta Walls LaNier.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 24, 2017, pp. 1D, 8D.
National Park Service
Central High School National Historic Site
Last Updated 5/30/2018
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