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A mighty long way : my journey to justice at Little Rock Central High School
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2009
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Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

Much has been written about the integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957-58, but LaNier-youngest of the Little Rock Nine-offers a different perspective as a student who was eager for a good education but never really wanted to be at the center of such a momentous event. Facing abuse from white students, she also avoided the press and shunned attention from supporters. While many of the Little Rock Nine ended up attending school elsewhere, following the closing of all Little Rock high schools for the 1958-59 school year by Governor Faubus, LaNier returned for her senior year. She survived the bombing of her home, graduated from Central, and left Little Rock intending never to look back (she lives with her family in Colorado and founded a real estate brokerage firm). Verdict With honest clarity, LaNier acknowledges what Little Rock's African Americans lost because of Central's integration: secure jobs, a strong sense of community, and the special commitment of the well-qualified teachers at black schools. Not until 50 years later was LaNier able to confront her past and embrace her role in civil rights history. An engaging and moving book; highly recommended.-Kathryn Stewart, Proquest/Library of Congress, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Booklist Review

In 1957 nine black students integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, triggering a firestorm of violence. LaNier, at 14, was one of the group that came to be known as the Little Rock Nine. Overwhelmed by the hatred she and others faced, as well as the national notoriety and talk of their bravery when they were just teenagers trying to get a good education, LaNier has for nearly 40 years been fairly silent about the experience. When President Bill Clinton honored the nine with the Congressional Gold Medal, LaNier began to tell her own story. In this gripping memoir, she recalls her family history of achievement, her decision to go to Central, the harassment and abuse she suffered, and the disrupted school years as she took correspondence courses and went to school elsewhere. She also recalls the bombing of her family's home and the unjust conviction of a family friend blamed for the bombing. A moving, very personal account of the aftermath of the 1954 Brown decision that began the painful process of desegregation.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2009 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

Well-crafted look at the wrenching experience of the youngest of the "Little Rock Nine." In the fall of 1957, three years after Brown v. Board of Education ordered the desegregation of all U.S. public schools, 14-year-old Carlotta Walls (now LaNier) signed up to be among the first black students at previously all-white Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. This nave, earnest decision would affect every facet of her life, as well as the lives of her family and neighbors. Coached and encouraged by the local NAACP branch, ten students attempted to attend Central High, only to be turned back by an ugly mob and the Arkansas National Guard, dispatched to encircle the school by staunch segregationist Gov. Orval Faubus. As lawsuits pressed by Thurgood Marshall and other civil-rights lawyers were pursued, President Eisenhower dispatched federal paratroopers to avoid "anarchy" and accompany each of the nine students (one had given up) to their classes. "Getting inside Central was just the beginning," remembers the author; now she faced "a brand new struggle: finding a way to survive." The daily abuse, both verbal and physical, caused intense stress; LaNier's memoir vividly depicts the students' and their families' blistering struggles. Faubus illegally closed down all the area high schools during the '58-59 school year ("the Lost Year"), and the violence worsened; Walls' home was bombed. She left Little Rock for college and a career, loath even to mention her involvement for many years. Finding her voice, as she notes, came much later, and this hindsight account suggests that the nation still has not achieved closure about the painful events at Little Rock. Keenly observed and moving. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
When fourteen-year-old Carlotta Walls walked up the stairs of Little Rock Central High School on September 25, 1957, she and eight other black students only wanted to make it to class. But the journey of the "Little Rock Nine," as they came to be known, would lead the nation on an even longer and much more turbulent path, one that would challenge prevailing attitudes, break down barriers, and forever change the landscape of America.<br> <br> Descended 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 Central High School, considered one of the nation's best academic institutions.<br> <br> But for 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. Arkansas's governor used the National Guard to bar the black students from entering the school. Finally, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was forced to send in the 101st Airborne to establish order and escort the Nine into the building. That was just the start of a heartbreaking three-year journey for Carlotta, who would see her home bombed, a crime for which her own father was a suspect and for which a friend of Carlotta's was ultimately jailed-albeit wrongly, in Carlotta's eyes. But she persevered to the victorious end: her graduation from Central.<br> <br> 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.<br> <br> 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.
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