Carlotta Walls LaNier

In 1957, at age 14, Carlotta Walls LaNier was the youngest of nine students to integrate Central High School. These students became known around the world as the Little Rock Nine. With great courage and determination, they changed the face of American education forever. Despite her youth, Mrs. LaNier understood the impact of education in a promising future. Inspired by Rosa Parks and the desire to get the best education available, she enrolled in Central High School. Anger and violent behavior threatened their safety and motivated President Dwight D. Eisenhower to dispatch the Army’s 101st Airborne Division to protect their constitutional rights. After Governor Orval Faubus closed Little Rock’s high schools the next school year to avoid further integration, Carlotta was forced to sit out her junior year and take correspondence courses. She was one of the two members of the original nine who returned to Central High School in 1959. On May 20, 1960, she became the first African American girl to participate in a graduation ceremony at Central (others had received their degree via mail).

Carlotta attended Michigan State University for two years and then moved to Denver with her family. She continued her education there and in 1968 graduated from Colorado State College, now the University of Northern Colorado, where she sits on the Board of Trustees. The same year, she married Ira C. “Ike” LaNier. She began her career in the nonprofit sector, working for the YWCA as a program administrator and founded her own real estate brokerage firm, LaNier and Company, in 1977.

A sought-after lecturer, Mrs. LaNier speaks across the country and is author of her book, A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice of Little Rock Central High School. This gripping memoir from the youngest of the “Little Rock Nine” offers an inside look at the most famous school integration in American history, and the courage and faith required to survive it all.