A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
At the close of 1957, the Associated Press ranked the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas as the year’s top national story – above the passage of a Civil Rights Act and President Eisenhower’s heart attack. Few now remember. According to Carlotta Walls LaNier in A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School, integration in the Arkansas capital was not commemorated in any way until its thirtieth anniversary. LaNier was a member of the Little Rock Nine, first group of blacks to enter Central High, and she admits that she too wanted to forget. For years she did not even tell friends or even her children that she had been involved. In time, however, she found that denying her part was holding her back from reconciliation, and when she spoke to a friend’s class, none of who had heard the story, she discovered a calling.
In A Mighty Long Way, LaNier recounts the three years that she endured cold stares, heckling, and jostling by hostile white students, but she does not dwell on the conflict. She concentrates on describing the support network that kept her aimed at getting her degree from the previously all-white school. She tells about the stoic parents, resourceful community leaders, and fair-minded teachers who sacrificed their own comfort and safety to help. LaNier is not the first of the Little Rock Nine to write. Melba Beals has written vividly about the troubles she endured in Warriors Don’t Cry. Together the authors help restore a chapter in history that some would still have us forget.
Review by Rick