Carlotta Walls LaNier, at age 14, was the youngest of the nine courageous African-American students known as the Little Rock Nine who integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The integration of the Arkansas high school was a catalyzing event in the American Civil Rights Movement testing the landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954).
Ms. LaNier and her fellow students initially were escorted to Central High School by the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army and later the Arkansas National Guard. Daily, they endured verbal taunts and physical harassment while at school. Ms. LaNier was one of three Little Rock Nine students to return to Central High School after the closing of all Little Rock high schools in 1958-1959, and became the first African-American woman to walk across the Central High School stage to receive her diploma.
After graduating from Central High in 1960, she studied at Michigan State University for two years before moving to Colorado. She enrolled at the University of Northern Colorado and earned her bachelor’s degree in 1968.
She, along with the other members of the Little Rock Nine, is the recipient of the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, awarded by President Bill Clinton in 1999, the prestigious Spingarn Medal from the NAACP, and the Lincoln Leadership Prize awarded by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation. Ms. LaNier is a recipient of four honorary doctorate degrees and is an inductee in the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.
Ms. La Nier has documented her journey with Lisa Frazier Paige in A Mighty Long Way…My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High. She remains active in numerous community organizations in Colorado and serves as the President of the Little Rock Nine Foundation, a financial aid and mentoring organization dedicated to ensuring equal access to education for children of color.