Big Steps on a Long Journey

Carlotta Walls LaNier recalls Little Rock Nine

3/21/2013, 10:31 a.m.

Blossom called a meeting for the parents and told them it was not a good idea to escort their children to school. He said that their presence could insight a riot. Wanting to do whatever was best for their children's safety, the parents complied.

Later that evening, her parents received a call instructing them to drop her off a block from school and a group of interracial ministers would escort she and the other new students to school. She wouldn't have to go alone, after all.

When Walls arrived at the meeting place the next day, she and her parents recognized two of the ministers that would escort the group, one of which was her former pastor. As she joined the group, she saw a few other students-including Green -that she knew from her old school.

The group of ministers formed a prayer circle with the students then proceeded quietly in a deliberate formation, toward the school. As the group drew closer toward the campus, they could hear the rumbling of large crowd ahead. With each step, the rumbling grew louder and louder.

Upon their arrival, the group was met with an angry White mob, screaming and yelling, with only one word strong enough to be heard repetitiously with clarity over the other -the N-word. With glaring eyes and snarly mouths, the word was heard over and over again, until it seemed to pierce her ears. Walls remembered what her father had told her for many years, about not letting the ignorance of others scare her.

When the students arrived at the door, they were face-to-face with Arkansas National Guards. The men stood stern and refused to let the students enter. The students were shocked as they realized that the guard was not there to protect them, but to keep them from entering the school. The students stood frozen in shock for several minutes after being told to leave the school campus, then proceeded back home, through the angry mob.

Walls, who had never missed a day of school, said that she was angry because she was excited about going to her new high school and she had a new store-bought dress that she picked out just for the occasion. Later, she became angry when she learned that the governor defied the Supreme Court decision and they were denied access to the school that they had right to attend.

That evening, Walls watched a news report of an incident with Eckford, who was suppose to join them a block away from the school, but had not received the information. The report showed the young lady press her way through the raging crowd as it surrounded her, viciously yelling, spitting and clawing at her.

If at first you don't succeed

The students and their families had no idea when the group would be allowed to attend the school. Three weeks later, a judge ordered that the students be allowed to enter the school.

Once again, the students prepared for their first day of school. This time, the students didn't have the general first-day-of-school jitters. The mood was more serious and the students had a better idea of what was at stake and what to expect.