Justice for All

January 5, 2018
Carlotta Walls (back row, with chin on hand) studies with the eight other members of the Little Rock Nine.
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It was September of 1957 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Carlotta Walls was 14 years old. She and eight other black teenagers walked toward Central High School. It was the first day of school. It was the best school in the city.

Other people were angry. They shouted at the teens. They did not want black and white students to go to school together. Guards would not let the teenagers into the building.

The Little Rock Nine were the first black students to attend Central High School.

JOE SOHM—VISIONS OF AMERICA/GETTY IMAGES

Three weeks later, the teens were able to attend their first day of school. This time, another group of soldiers protected them.

The teens were among the first black students in the United States to go to an all-white school. They came to be known as the Little Rock Nine.

Leading the Way

Black children and white children couldn’t always go to school together. In 1954, the United States Supreme Court made a decision. They said segregation in public schools was illegal. All students would now be able to go to the same schools.

The teens in Little Rock showed great courage. They were leaders in the U.S. civil rights movement. The group received a Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Looking Back

The teens set off a chain of events across the country. Today, students of all races are in classrooms together. “That is due to our success at Central High School 60 years ago,” Carlotta told TFK.

Carlotta Walls LaNier still works to promote equality. She is president of The Little Rock Nine Foundation. “We still have work to do,” Carlotta says. “We have to make sure the progress we’ve made is not reversed.”

A Young Leader

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The Little Rock Nine were not the only young people to stand up for fairness. In 1960, Ruby Bridges also showed courage. She was the first black child to go to an all-white elementary school. Ruby was 6 years old. She was brave. Ruby made history.