Carlotta Walls LaNier
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Carlotta Walls LaNier (born December 18, 1942) was the youngest of the Little Rock Nine, a group of African-American students who, in 1957, were the first black students ever to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. She was the first black female to graduate from Central High School. In 1999, LaNier and the other people of the Little Rock Nine were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President Bill Clinton.
Early life and education
Carlotta Walls LaNier was born in 1942 in Little Rock, Arkansas to Juanita and Cartelyou Walls. Cartelyou was a brick mason and a World War II veteran, while Juanita was a secretary in the Office of Public Housing.
Carlotta first attended Dunbar Junior High School, a segregated school in Little Rock. However, after graduating, she volunteered to be one of the first African-Americans to attend Central High School.
On September 4, 1957, Carlotta and eight other African American students (known as the Little Rock Nine) made an unsuccessful attempt to enter Little Rock Central High School, which had been segregated. Despite the presence of the National Guard, an angry mob of about 400 surrounded the school. The National guard, in fact, had not been there to keep the mob under control, or to let the black students in. They were there because of the fierce segregationist, Governor Orval Faubus, who was breaking national law in keeping them out. He said that there was a safety issue, and he addressed it in his court appeal, and that until that hazard was obliterated, the students should not attend Central high. After almost no deliberation, they proclaimed his plea unconstitutional, and a unanimous vote from the surpreme court, forced him to de-segregate the schools. The next year, in another attempt to de-segregate schools, he closed most high schools, including central. The Nine were homeschooled that year.
The National Guard were removed with the protection of the students left to the local police. On September 23, 1957, a mob of about 1000 people surrounded the school as the students attempted to enter. The following day, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent U.S. Army troops of the 101st airborne division to accompany the students to school for protection. The troops were stationed at the school for the entirety of the school year, although they were unable to prevent incidents of violence inside. During her school year, Carlotta was spat on by white students.
In 1958, Carlotta and the rest of the Little Rock Nine were awarded the Spingarn Medal by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), as was Daisy Bates. Still, the crisis resulted on all of Little Rock’s high schools being closed during that year. Despite this, Carlotta returned to Central High in 1959 and graduated in 1960.
College and career
Following her graduation from Central High in 1960, Walls attended Michigan State University for 2 years. However, her father was unable to find a job because of the crisis surrounding his daughter, and they moved to Denver, Colorado. LaNier graduated from Colorado State College (now the University of Northern Colorado) and began working at the YWCA as a program administrator for teens. In 1977, she founded LaNier and Company, a real estate brokerage company.
For over 30 years, LaNier has worked as a professional real estate broker. Currently, she is working with Brokers Guild-Cherry Creek Ltd. and formerly worked with Prudential Colorado Real Estate. LaNier is a member of Metrolist, Inc. She married Ira (Ike) LaNier in 1968 with whom she had two children, Whitney and Brooke. She currently resides in Englewood, Colorado.
Honors and awards
LaNier and the Little Rock Nine have received numerous awards and recognitions, including the prestigious Spingarn Medal from the NAACP in 1958, and the nation’s highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal, which was bestowed upon them in 1999 by President Bill Clinton. She has been a member of the Urban League, NAACP, and is currently president of the Little Rock Nine Foundation, a scholarship organization dedicated to ensuring equal access to education for African Americans. She also serves as a trustee for the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, and the University of Northern Colorado.
LaNier was named a “Woman of Distinction” by the Girl Scouts in 2000, and was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 2004. She recently received the National Shining Star Award from NOBEL/Women (National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women).
A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School. With Lisa Frazier Page. OneWorld/Ballantine, 2009.
- This day, History.
- Carlotta Walls LaNier at America.gov
- Carlotta LaNier entry at the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame
- "Changing Minds: The Youngest of the Little Rock Nine Talks Justice" --an August 2009 interview with Carlotta Walls LaNier from Books on the Root
- A Mighty Long Way book review at The Huffington Post
- Little Rock Nine Foundation website