Big Steps on a Long Journey

Carlotta Walls LaNier recalls Little Rock Nine

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

Darkness before the dawn

The next school year was met with more protests and threats. After threats about a mob on its way to the school, Walls and the other students were escorted out of their classrooms and to a safe location, until they could be escorted to their parents and taken home.

In 1958, during her 11th grade year, the governor closed all of the schools and 3,700 students had no high school to attend, Walls told the audience. She completed the year through the University of Arkansas correspondence classes. The schools were reopened in August 1959 and she returned to Central in September.

On Feb. 9, 1960, Walls was awakened one night by a loud booming noise that shook the house. Realizing that it was an explosion at the front end of the house, Walls ran through the smoke-filled house to find her sisters and mother.

In her book, Walls wrote about that terrifying moment in chapter 10, then went on to discuss the men that were accused of the crime, in the next chapter titled Scapegoats.

After years of tension, terror and abuse, Walls graduated in May 1960. She wrote that her graduation was a victory, not just for she and her family, but those who supported them along the way.

I needed that diploma to validate everything that I had gone through,"she said.

Walls went on to attend Michigan State University, then Colorado State University, where she received her degree.

At the end of her book, she recalls the moments between the Election Day of November 2008 and the day Barack Obama was inaugurated. She noted that it was then, when she realized the significance of the first day she placed her feet on the steps of Little Rock Central High School. She said that it took each step of those young students into a hostile all-White school, to get to the moment when a man of African heritage would take his first steps into the White House as President of the United States.

Walls - now Carlotta Wall LaNier, a wife and mother of two -travels around the country to promote her book, discussing the historic significance of the Little Rock Nine and the importance of education.

I hope to bring attention to education and to show that you can persevere over adversity and still get to whatever your goals might be," she said. 'And [I hope] people will purchase my book and read about why they are where they are today, in some classrooms, and so forth. A lot of people really don't realize if we had not been successful in integrating Little Rock Central High School I don't think we would be where we are today.

She said she felt most youth don't understand the great opportunities they have and the importance of education.

"If you get that education, no one can take it away from you. I feel - and this is a personal opinion of mine -that families do not emphasis and make education the number one priority. We really do need to get back to that foundation."