Carlotta Walls Lanier, the author of A Mighty Long Way, is one of the Little Rock nine who helped to integrate Little Rock, Arkansas' Central High School in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This memoir was an easy read - at least as far as the writing goes. What was not easy was the idea of school segregation and the the racist behavior that Carlotta and her friends endured during their high school years. When most teenagers were busy attending football games, dating, and hanging out with their friends, Carlotta spent her days worrying about the safety of herself and her family and finding her way in an environment that she was not often welcomed in. She faced roadblocks on her road to graduation that her white peers never had to encounter, sometimes being unable to attend school due to threats made against her.
Carlotta achieved her dream of graduating from Central High School along with some of the other students who helped to integrate the school. While they did achieve their goal, it was not without a price. Carlotta does not complain about the path she chose in life, but does recognize that attending high school under such stressful circumstances did affect her ability to concentrate and accomplish certain things in college.
History books make mention of the Little Rock nine, and most students do know the story of Ruby Bridges, yet even having a little knowledge about this chapter in history did not give me the perspective that a person who lived it is able to. Walls did not write her memoir until later in her life, having tried to leave her infamy behind. Remembering the events she lived through was hard when she first began accepting speaking offers, but Walls persevered and continued to share her story with others. Today the Little Rock nine are a group of friends who meet and keep up with each other regularly. Their shared experience have bound them for life. Walls' first person account of this period in history is honest and interesting, and could easily be used in a high school curriculum as well as for pleasure reading. Any reader will be inspired by Walls' determination and pride.