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60 years ago this September, nine students prepared to begin their first day of high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. Making this seemingly ordinary rite of passage an act of extraordinary bravery was the fact that these students were the first Black students to integrate what was then the all-white Little Rock Central High School. Facing threats and physical violence from fellow students, community members, and the faculty who barred them from entering the school, it was only when federal orders from President Dwight D. Eisenhower to send the 101st Airborne Division in to safely escort the students inside.
The youngest of the group, Carlotta Walls LaNier, just 14 year old in 1957, had spent years not speaking on this chapter of her life, one marked by degradation and hostility that would have intimidated most adults. As the years passed she realized her story was not only still relevant to modern audiences, but an essential part of American history. Following the publication of A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School, Carlotta continues to speak about her experience to audiences throughout the world.
A sought-after speaker for college and university audiences, women’s and African American organizations, and civic service groups, LaNier inspires with her story of how a first day of school becomes a historical act of courage, and serves as a powerful reminder that the everyone has the capacity to be a hero. Her audiences are empowered to seek out justice in their own communities, and to move forward with the knowledge that even the most celebrated heroes begin their journey with a single step.
What audiences have to say about Carlotta Walls LaNier:
“Carlotta ‘wowed’ our students, faculty, staff and the area community. She was informative and engaging. Her audience included a wide range of ages; Carlotta answered questions with a great sense of humor or seriousness as fit the request. All her responses were thoughtful and positive. Thank you for all you have done to make this a most wonderful One Book One College semester for us.”
— Massasoit Community College
“She did an AMAZING job!!! AWESOME presentation! Wonderful smile! Everyone walked away loving it! I had people email and come up to me and say ‘this was the BEST speaker we have had!’”
— A Walk in Their Shoes
“She was a great guest. The entire community came away from her talk feeling inspired and well-informed. Carlotta was also very accommodating and answered all questions from the students and faculty both during the Q&A and luncheon. She was a pleasure to have here!”
— The Groton School
“She gave a great lecture and answered many students questions in a very candid and impactful way. She received two standing ovations!”
— Rockhurst University