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Carlotta Walls Lanier. Walmart Tell us if something is incorrect. Book Format: Choose an option. Add to Cart. Product Highlights In , Walls and eight other black students--known as the Little Rock Nine--only want to make it to class. But their journey would lead the nation on a much more turbulent path. Walls shines a light on this watershed moment in Civil Rights history in this inspiring memoir. About This Item We aim to show you accurate product information.
Manufacturers, suppliers and others provide what you see here, and we have not verified it. See our disclaimer. When fourteen-year-old Carlotta Walls walked up the stairs of Little Rock Central High School on September 25, , she and eight other black students only wanted to make it to class. 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 st 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. Customer Reviews.
But every now and then, I pull up alongside the redbrick bungalow at 15th and Valentine streets, park the car, and get out. This was the center of my world as a child. The place looks abandoned with its boarded-up windows and weeds where lush green grass used to grow. There is no sign of the big gardenia bush that once graced the front yard. Mother would pick a fresh flower from that bush and place it in her hair just so, like Billie Holiday.
But the gardenias are long gone. So, too, is the tree in the backyard that used to grow the plumpest, sweetest figs around. The pecan tree still stands, and as I picked up a few dried nuts one scorching summer day, I was reminded of the lean Christmas in junior high school when that tree provided perfect homemade gifts for most of my family and friends.
Money was tight that year, so I made date-nut cakes from the bounty in our backyard to give away as presents. So, of course, someone in the neighborhood was always making homemade pecan ice cream or baking pecan pies or some kind of nut cookies or cake. But Mother finally sold it several years ago when the upkeep became too much and I convinced her that none of her three girls would ever return. She was reluctant at first to let go. The memories, I guess. And our family roots—they run pretty deep through there.
I was three years old when Daddy bought the house at S. Valentine Street, just blocks away from the all-white Central High School. Even then, the school was known throughout the country for its Greek-inspired architecture, beauty, and high academic achievement. Mother was weary of having moved with me at least four times, mostly among relatives, while he was away. Papa Holloway, as I knew my great-grandfather, looked like a Spaniard with his tan skin, dark eyes, thick, wavy black hair, and mustache. He stood about six feet tall, and family members say that I—tall and slender as a child—inherited his height and thin build.
I probably inherited some of his other characteristics, too, like my hair, which is naturally pretty wavy. When I was a child, it grew like weeds, so long and thick that I had trouble grooming it, and Mother had to plait it into neat braids or pull it into ponytails until I was well into junior high school. As difficult as some parts of his story were to digest, the interview re- minded me just how much my ancestors endured in their pursuit of education, generations before I ever stepped foot onto Central. If he were caught with a book, they beat him to death nearly.
Looks like they had a mighty good chance; but it looks like the more they get the worse they are. I once asked Papa Holloway about his brothers and sisters. He told me he had several siblings but that he knew the whereabouts of only one, a sister, Maude, who lived in Cleveland. He said that he suspected his other brothers and sisters were scattered throughout the country and passed as white. He helped to build houses throughout Arkansas, including many of the higher-end homes in the wealthy white Pulaski Heights neighborhood in Little Rock. He also built White Memorial Methodist Church, just up the street from my house.
Much of my family worshipped there. Papa was on the board of trustees, a real mover and shaker who was there practically every time the doors of the church opened. Most Sundays, I sat beside him on the front pew.
A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School
The baby girl died, too, as did a set of twins who had been born earlier. Papa raised the remaining children and never married again. His oldest son, Hugh, would become one of only two black men who worked as skilled laborers on Central High School when it was built.
Valentine Street. Mother and I stayed with her briefly while my father was away at war. How much of my memory of Mrs. But I remember being terrified of her. She dressed like a witch or a woman on the frontier, in long black cotton dresses and black high-top boots. On some Sunday mornings, my paternal grandfather, Big Daddy, would drop me off at Mrs. But when the front door opened silently, I saw from the corner of my eyes those high-top boots and the hem of her long black dress moving toward me.
I immediately turned off the tears, rose to my feet, and followed Mrs. Holmes inside as though I had some sense. When Dora Holmes died, she left her estate in the care of Papa Holloway, who offered the house to my father. None of us could have imagined then how much that address would dictate the course of our lives in the years ahead.
The house was located just west of downtown Little Rock, a few miles beyond 9th Street, which was then a bustling strip of black-owned businesses and nightspots. The community surrounding 9th Street was all black. My end of town was more racially mixed—black families lived on one block, whites on the other. In some cases, black and white families lived across the street from one another. But our white neighbors may as well have been living on Mars for all we knew of their lives.
When my family moved there, the neighborhood was still new. Most of the houses were box-shaped with wooden frames, built along a grid of narrow dirt roads after World War II.
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They were modest but well kept. Our house stood out because Daddy, who earned a living as a brick mason, meticulously covered it from top to bottom with the same red bricks that remain on the house today. The only other brick house in the neighborhood belonged to Papa Holloway. Daddy had learned the brick masonry trade from his father-in-law, Med Cullins, a master contractor who did brick masonry work on Central High in the s. He was a big, imposing man who stood over six feet tall with a heavyset frame, a gravelly voice, and a gruff disposition that matched his size. His beige skin and straight hair gave him the appearance of a slightly tanned white man.
He walked with his shoulders squared and head high and carried a half-pint of liquor stuffed in his back pocket. He had one suit and wore mismatched socks, but he considered those kinds of things trivial. Neither man kowtowed to anyone. Confidence seemed to radiate from them both, but the likeness ended there. Grandpa Cullins had an intimidating—and sometimes crude—presence, which worked to his advantage when it came time to collect from someone who had hired him to do a job.
He could be less than forgiving on money matters, even if the delinquent client was a house of worship. Grandpa Cullins had asked Daddy to drive him to the church. But as the service wound to a close, the pastor made the mistake of recognizing my grandfather to say a few words. Grandpa Cullins strolled to the front, told the congregants what a pretty goddamn church they had, but he reminded them that he was still waiting for his money.