A Mighty Long Way:
My Journey to Justice at
When fourteen-year-old Carlotta Walls walked up the stairs of
from a line of proud black landowners and businessmen, Carlotta was raised to
believe that education was the key to success. She embraced learning and
excelled in her studies at the black schools she attended throughout the 1950s.
With Brown v. Board of Education erasing the color divide in classrooms across
the country, the teenager volunteered to be among the first black students--of
whom she was the youngest--to integrate nearby
Carlotta and her eight comrades, simply getting through the door was the first
of many trials. Angry mobs of white students and their parents hurled taunts,
insults, and threats.
Breaking her silence at last and sharing her story for the first time, Carlotta Walls has written an inspiring, thoroughly engrossing memoir that is not only a testament to the power of one to make a difference but also of the sacrifices made by families and communities that found themselves a part of history.
Complete with compelling photographs of the time, A Mighty Long Way shines a light on this watershed moment in civil rights history and shows that determination, fortitude, and the ability to change the world are not exclusive to a few special people but are inherent within us all.
Second Review: A Mighty Long Way
Walking the walk in Montgomery with a true civil rights pioneer Carlotta Walls LaNier., July 31, 2009
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When Carlotta Walls of Little Rock, AR was 8 years old she had a
life changing experience. The year was 1951 and Carlotta's parents Cartelyou and Juanita Walls decided it would be a good idea
for their young daughter to spend her summer vacation visiting an aunt in
In the 1954 decision "Brown v. Board of Education" the U.S. Supreme Court declared that "all laws establishing segregated schools to be unconstitutional" and furthermore ordered the desegregation of all schools throughout the nation. By the time the State of
While reading Carlotta's gut wrenching account of her days at Little Rock Central High one cannot not help but feel empathy for this smart, courageous and determined young lady. Carlotta and her 8 comrades put everything on the line in order to advance the cause of integration in her hometown. But I don't believe that any of these youngsters had any idea what they were up against. As is made clear in the pages of "A Mighty Long Way" the odds were clearly against them. The political establishment in
After much heartache and pain Carlotta Walls did manage to graduate from Central Little Rock High in June of 1960. The very next day she left
August 26, 2009 Read the Book:
[30 min 0 sec]
Courtesy of Carlotta Walls LaNier
Author Carlotta Walls LaNier was nurtured by women, but she credits the men in her life for her independent streak and determination.
August 26, 2009
In 1957, the "Little Rock
Nine" enrolled in racially segregated
In her book, A Mighty Long Way, she remembers her
journey. Her trip began with a decision she calls a "no-brainer." She
signed a piece of paper with her intention to attend
She finished her tenure at Little Rock Central High with a diploma. "I am the only female of the Little Rock Nine to participate in graduation exercises," she told guest host Andrea Seabrook. "Two others, that were juniors that became seniors, did receive diplomas, but schools were closed during that time."
by Carlotta Walls LaNier
A Different World
Papa's wife, Mary, died in 1922 at age
thirty-four while giving birth to their sixteenth child. The baby girl died,
too, as did a set of twins who had been born earlier. Papa raised the remaining
children and never married again. His oldest son, Hugh, would become one of
only two black men who worked as skilled laborers on
On some Sunday mornings, my paternal grandfather, Big Daddy, would drop me off at Mrs. Holmes's house after I had spent the weekend with him. As soon as we approached the house, I'd start screaming and hollering that I didn't want to go. I'd fall out, kicking and wailing, on the front porch. But when the front door opened silently, I saw from the corner of my eyes those high-top boots and the hem of her long black dress moving toward me. I immediately turned off the tears, rose to my feet, and followed Mrs. Holmes inside as though I had some sense.
When Dora Holmes died, she left her
estate in the care of Papa Holloway, who offered the house to my father. None
of us could have imagined then how much that address would dictate the course
of our lives in the years ahead. The house was located just west of downtown
Little Rock, a few miles beyond 9th Street, which was then a bustling strip of
black-owned businesses and nightspots. The community surrounding
Daddy had learned the brick masonry trade from his father-in-law, Med Cullins, a master contractor who did brick masonry work on Central High in the 1940s. Grandpa Cullins, my mother's father, was a real character. He was a big, imposing man who stood over six feet tall with a heavyset frame, a gravelly voice, and a gruff disposition that matched his size. His beige skin and straight hair gave him the appearance of a slightly tanned white man. He walked with his shoulders squared and head high and carried a half-pint of liquor stuffed in his back pocket. He also couldn't finish a sentence without at least one "goddamn." Grandpa was his own man. He had one suit and wore mismatched socks, but he considered those kinds of things trivial. When I met Thurgood Marshall in later years, his aura reminded me in an odd way of Grandpa Cullins. Neither man kowtowed to anyone. Confidence seemed to radiate from them both, but the likeness ended there.
Grandpa Cullins had an intimidating — and sometimes crude — presence, which worked to his advantage when it came time to collect from someone who had hired him to do a job. He could be less than forgiving on money matters, even if the delinquent client was a house of worship.
"Your father just embarrassed the heck out of me," I heard my father tell Mother one Sunday afternoon when I was in junior high school after the two men returned from a church service in a nearby town.
Grandpa Cullins had asked Daddy to drive him to the church. But as the service wound to a close, the pastor made the mistake of recognizing my grandfather to say a few words. Grandpa Cullins strolled to the front, told the congregants what a pretty goddamn church they had, but he reminded them that he was still waiting for his money.
Grandpa was not a patient man. He called every man "son" and every woman "daughter," including his own children and grandchildren, who say he did so because he didn't want to bother remembering any names.
"Daughter, let me speak to daughter," he commanded one day when I answered the phone at home.
I looked at Mother and her sister and responded: "Which one?"
"Goddammit," Grandpa barked. "The one who lives there!"
had dropped out of
At first, I didn't understand what he meant, so I asked: "What's wrong with Zachary Taylor?"
"That's Sam Mumford's grandfather," Grandpa Cullins responded, referring to his good friend and fellow contractor.
"Oh, Grandpa, you know a president wouldn't marry a colored woman," I shot back.
He looked at me with a sly grin. "Whoever said anything about getting married?"
Excerpted from A Mighty Long Way by Carlotta Walls LaNier with Lisa Frazier Page Copyright 2009 by Carlotta Walls Lanier. Excerpted by permission of One World/Ballantine, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.