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A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School Hardcover – August 25, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Book Description
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A Look Inside A Mighty Long Way

Click on thumbnails for larger images

The "Testament" memorial, which features life-size bronze statutes of each of the Little Rock Nine.

(Courtesy of the author)
I had six of these prized admission tickets for my closest family members to attend my graduation from Central.

(Courtesy of the author)
Little Rock Central High School, which the National Institute of Architects called "America's Most Beautiful School" when it was built in 1927.

(Courtesy of the author)
From right: Ernest Green, Gloria Ray, Jane Hill (standing behind Gloria) and I, face the National Guard on Sept. 4, 1957, on our first attempt to enter Central; Jane never returned to Central after that day.

(Will Counts Collection: Indiana University Archives)

From Publishers Weekly

At 14, Lanier was the youngest of the Little Rock Nine, who integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1951; she went on to become the first African –American young woman to receive a diploma from the school. Her memoir provides a firsthand account of a seismic shift in American history. She recalls the well-reported violence outside the school and daily harassment and ineffective protection from teachers and guards. Away from school, the Nine were honored and feted, but their parents found their jobs—even their lives—in jeopardy. Lanier's house was bombed, and a childhood friend, Herbert Monts, was falsely accused and convicted. Monts's account of his experiences, shared with Lanier, 43 years later, is historically newsworthy. Lanier's recollections of family history and her relatively pedestrian experiences after high school graduation (graduate school, job hunting, marrying, finding her new home in Denver) lack the drama of her historical moment. In a sense, Lanier didn't make history, history made her. Her plainspoken report from the front line is, nevertheless, a worthy contribution to the history of civil rights in America. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: One World/Ballantine; 1 edition (August 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034551100X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345511003
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #712,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A Mighty Long Way is one of the best books I've received through the Vine program. Carlotta Walls was one of the original Little Rock 9: the first nine teenagers who dared to enroll at Little Rock's premier high school. She describes her experience in a simple, straightforward style, which ironically makes her story even more shocking than it might otherwise.

It's hard to imagine many teenagers who would handle themselves as well as Carlotta did. Every day was torture. She didn't just dodge insults; she dealt with physical harassment. Kids would knock her books over, then kick her when she bent to get them. A female student stepped on her heels, drawing blood. Through it all, Carlotta held firm. She didn't cry. Occasionally she reported instances of misconduct. But mostly, after the troopers left, she was on her own.

Carlotta's family supported her decision at great personal sacrifice. The community helped; I hadn't realized how much the NAACP was involved. The school kept closing when the governor would rather have no schools than integrated schools.

Carlotta and her friends sacrificed a large part of their teenage years. Forbidden to attend after-school activities, she joined some events at Mann, were African-Aemricans were welcome.

The most moving part of the book comes at the end, when the Little Rock 9 finally get recognition. Carlotta returns for an anniversary in Little Rock, where the president and Mike Huckabee (a very different governor from Faubus, she notes) hold the doors while she enters Central High. Later she watches Barack Obama win the election. Because she bravely walked up the steps of Central High, she says, now Barack and his family can walk up the White Hosue steps.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book touched me deeply, and at times I had to stop reading because of the tears in my eyes as I read this very personal tale of a black teen-ager integrating Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas in 1957. It was all the more poignant because I remember these events, and I also remember reading about the ordeal of one of the nine teen-agers, Minnijean, in a magazine picture story at the time. I remember reading that the white kids threw hot soup on Minnijean, and this was just one of many indignities that these young civil right pioneers had to endure. Minnijean was later expelled for fighting back against her harassers. These teen-agers had gone where they were not wanted, but where they had a right to be. The Supreme Court declared that "separate but equal" did not satisfy the law; separate was inherently unequal. All-white schools had to admit black students.

I am a white woman, a few years younger than the author, who grew up in Flint, Michigan. Flint was a segregated city and, in the early 1950s, my family moved from our home, along with all of our neighbors, because a black family had moved onto our block. This was mainly instigated by the real estate people who would move in a black family and then urge the white people to sell their homes (this was known as "block busting"). I never met any black people until high school, when I volunteered at a home for the aged, and worked beside the kitchen staff who were all black. In those days, there were black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods, and segregation in housing and schools was the norm. I wonder how many younger people really understand this?

What stood out for me in reading this book was the innocence of Carlotta as she quietly decided that she would take the opportunity offered by the Brown vs.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When Carlotta Walls of Little Rock, AR was 8 years old she had a life changing experience. The year was 1951 and Carlotta's parents Cartelyou and Juanita Walls decided it would be a good idea for their young daughter to spend her summer vacation visiting an aunt in New York City. It was a thrilling experience for young Carlotta. She visited Radio City Music Hall, saw a ballgame at Ebbets Field, and paid a visit to the Statue of Liberty. Perhaps more important than any of these experiences she befriended a young white boy by the name of Francis. Such a relationship was simply out of the question in her hometown of Little Rock. When young Carlotta packed her bags and returned to Little Rock in the waning days of August she was no longer the same little girl. Through her experiences that summer she suddenly realized that every place was not like the Jim Crow South that she and her family existed in. She could not have known it at the time but her new worldview would have a profound impact on a monumental decision she would make just a few years later.

In the 1954 decision "Brown v. Board of Education" the U.S. Supreme Court declared that "all laws establishing segregated schools to be unconstitutional" and furthermore ordered the desegregation of all schools throughout the nation. By the time the State of Arkansas got around to complying with the Supreme Court ruling it was 1957. Governor Orval Faubus was a self proclaimed segregationist who fought integration tooth and nail from the get-go. He was not happy about but plans were moving forward to integrate the schools including Little Rock Central High School. Nine courageous young black students registered to attend Little Rock Central High in the fall of 1957. One of them was Carlotta Walls.
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