Carlotta Walls LaNier
In 1957, at age 14, Carlotta Walls LaNier made history as the youngest of the “Little Rock Nine,” a group of African American students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Inspired by Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger had sparked the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott — and by the desire for an equal education — LaNier enrolled at Central High School as a sophomore. On the first day, an angry mob surrounded the school to prevent the African American students from entering the building. After two weeks of protests and violence, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent U.S. Army troops to Little Rock to escort the students to class. The military presence remained for the duration of the school year.
In 1960, LaNier was the first African American female to graduate from Central High School. The desegregation of Central High School by the Little Rock Nine became the catalyst for similar changes in the American educational system.
LaNier and the rest of the Little Rock Nine have received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award, in 1999. She is the author of “A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice of Little Rock Central High School.”