Little Rock Nine civil rights icon visits UNF

On Wednesday University of North Florida students heard from a civil rights icon.

In 1957, nine African-American students tried to enter Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas but were stopped by National Guard troops and an angry mob.

They came to be known as the Little Rock Nine.

Action News Jax spoke with Carlotta Walls LaNier, the youngest woman in that group, about her role in history.

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LaNier, who was only 14 years old in September 1957, said the time will always be etched in her memory.

She and eight of her classmates attended Central High School following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on segregation in the Brown v. Board of Education case.

On Sept. 4, 1957, her first day of school, the campus was filled with angry mobs of people who opposed the ruling, and death death were made.

The crowds grew so large, the National Guard had to be called in.

“Unfortunately, we quickly found out the Arkansas National Guard was really there to keep us out,” said LaNier.

On Sept. 23, LaNier and her classmates attempted to go to Central High once more. This time they were escorted by police, but even that wasn’t enough.

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“The mob had grown to over 1000. They could not keep us safe,” she said.

It wasn’t until the third attempt, on Sept. 25, that President Dwight Eisenhower got involved and offered some protection.

“Twelve hundred troopers, and they escorted us into school,” said LaNier.

She graduated from Little Rock Central High School in 1960 and now tells her story of how the Little Rock Nine opened the doors for change.