A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School
Lisa Frazier Page
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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.
For Carlotta and the eight other children, simply getting through the door of this admired academic institution involved angry mobs, racist elected officials, and intervention by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was forced to send in the 101st Airborne to escort the Nine into the building. But entry was simply the first of many trials. Breaking her silence at last and sharing her story for the first time, Carlotta Walls has written an engrossing memoir that is a testament not only to the power of a single person to make a difference but also to the sacrifices made by families and communities that found themselves a part of history.
house, and something fun was always happening there. In the evenings and on weekends, black fraternities, sororities, and other groups regularly held meetings and adult parties in the center’s huge hall on the main level. A smaller room upstairs drew families and church groups for afternoon receptions. But during the day, the center belonged to the city’s youths. It was always full of children and teens, playing games and cards while the latest sounds of rock and roll blared from the
upstairs room sparkled with red and white, from the festive lights and decorations to the dozens of women dressed in the colors of their sorority. I wore red and white, too, a taffeta dress in a polka-dot print. It was especially nice to see Mother and Daddy dressed in their holiday finery, enjoying themselves like old times. Before Central, they often got all spruced up for a night on the town, but much of the fun in their lives as a young couple seemed to have dried up. I missed the laughter
remained intact and ultimately purchased the former University of Arkansas Graduate Center for its school. The group also managed to hire teachers from outside the city after its efforts to hire public school teachers failed. With everything in place, the segregationists opened their whites-only school in late October and eventually enrolled about 900 students. However, by the beginning of 1959, at least 675 students were not enrolled in school or correspondence courses anywhere, according to a
friends during those short rides in the car and the lunch periods when two or three of us sat together. Frank Henderson’s father was a Presbyterian minister whose flexible schedule allowed him to be one of our more regular drivers. Reverend Henderson would drop off his wife at Stephens Elementary, where she was a fifth-grade teacher, and then swing by my house to pick me up. His son, Frank, was a tall, big guy, built like an athlete, but he played no sports and was very studious. He had a gentle
to see inside the car. It was Herbert Monts, my childhood friend. I was thrilled to see him and rushed to his car. We had often joked as children about our twinlike connection, and now, after six years without seeing or talking to each other, we’d somehow ended up with the same taste in cars. The moment felt divinely inspired. Here I was, on my first trip home in six years, and the first person I saw was the one whose treatment by the justice system had embodied the injustice that made me want