Carlotta Walls LaNier – The Youngest of The Little Rock Nine
As a Content Creator/ Social Influencer I have had the opportunity to meet and work with so many amazing brands and people who at one time in my life I would have never imagined being afforded this prestige honor and on this past week I was bless to meet, speak with and listen to Carlotta Walls Lanier, the keynote speaker for at the 94th AJLI Annual Conference as a media guest of The Lincoln Motor Company, Empowering Women.
Carlotta Walls LaNier was born on December 18, 1942. She was the youngest of the Little Rock Nine, a group of African-American students who all made the choice to be among the first black students to ever attend classes at Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. She’s also known for being the first black female to ever graduate from Central High School.
The moment that Carlotta took the stage you could immediately feel the warmth, love and determination to continue to urge others to openly accept change. We live in a world where change is constantly happening every second of the day. She mesmerized the audience with her strength as an adult and as a youth that helped set the stage for integration. She was raised by her parents Cartelyou and Juanita Walls. Her father, Cartelyou was a brick mason and a World War II veteran and her mother Juanita worked as a secretary in the Office of Public Housing. As Carlotta verbally carried us through her triumphant story she spoke about how loving her parents were and the positivity that they instilled in her growing up.
Upon Carlotta completing her education at Dunbar Junior High School, which was a segregated school in Little Rock the opportunity arose for over a 100 students to sign a form to be among the first the attend an All-White high school. Carlotta noted that she never asked her parents for permission or spoke to them about the decision that she had made. She simply completed the form and submitted it to the administration. She spoke about the moments when they all walked to the corner there were many yelling and cursing protesters which had not really faced her because as she stated “My parents never taught me to hate”. She also noted that the reason she wanted to attend Central High School because “I knew that I was just as good as the next one. It came from my teaching at home”.
On September 4, 1957, the Little Rock Nine made an unsuccessful attempt to enter Central High School. We learned that the Arkansas National Guard, under the orders from the governor, along with a very angry mob of over 400 surrounded the school and prevented the nine from entering the school. I learned that on September 23, 1957 the day started off beautiful like any other day except this would be the day that the Arkansas Nine would attend Central High for the first time which will set the precedent for integration throughout the United States. Although there were controversy throughout the year which resulted in the high schools closing, Carlotta not only graduated in 1960 but also along with the rest of the Little Rock Nine were all awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP and many years later in 1999, LaNier and the others of the Little Rock Nine were all awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President Bill Clinton. She travels the world helping others with breaking barriers and has documented her Little Rock Nine story in her book, A Mighty Long Way.
This was a once in a lifetime moment for me in my media career and as an educated African-American Woman. Thank you Lincoln Motor Company for this amazing experience.