Carlotta Walls LaNier was the youngest member of the Little Rock Nine. She was only 14 years-old when she endured hatred and violence at Little Rock Central High School. She enrolled at Central High because she was inspired by Rosa Parks’ refusal to give her bus seat to white bus riders and she was determined to receive the best education possible. Since Central High was known as the most prestigious high school in Little Rock and African Americans could now legally attend, LaNier wanted to take advantage of the opportunity before her. LaNier was so determined to receive quality education that she registered to attend Central High without informing her parents. Her parents only realized what she had done when her registration card arrived in the mail the summer before she began school there. Her parents were proud that she made such an independent and brave decision on her own.
When she attended Central High School, LaNier was spit on, harassed and threatened regularly. LaNier was one of the three members of the Little Rock Nine to return to Central High School and graduate after Governor Faubus closed all of the city’s schools to prevent integration. The constant challenges and hardships she faced at Central High made graduating worthwhile. When referring to her diploma, she stated “I had to have that sheet of paper...It was an achievement. I helped change the educational system” (LaNier).
After becoming the first African American woman to graduate from Little Rock Central High School, LaNier attended Michigan State University and later transferred to the University of Northern Colorado, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in 1968. LaNier currently serves as President of the Little Rock Nine Foundation. This organization provides mentoring and financial aid to students of color to help them gain equal access to education.
Due to her role as a member of the Little Rock Nine and her influence on the Civil Rights Movement, Carlotta Walls LaNier has received the following awards and recognition: the Congressional Gold Medal from President Clinton, the Spingarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Lincoln Leadership Prize from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, four honorary doctorate degrees, a personal invitation to President Obama’s inauguration, and inductions into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame as well as the National Women’s Hall of Fame. LaNier also published a memoir entitled A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School. Carlotta Walls LeNier is celebrated for the enormous role she played in the fight for racial integration.
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If you would like to learn more about your rights or believe that you have been discriminated against please visit the Civil Rights Justice Center located at 2150 N. 107th Street in Seattle Washington or visit our website at civilrightsjusticecenter.com