Carlotta Walls LaNier, Lisa Frazier Page. A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School. One World, 2009. ISBN 978-0345511003 304 pp. $
One of the Little Rock Nine–the first African American students admitted to Central High School in 1957 under a desegregation order from President Eisenhower–breaks her 50 year silence to return to the dark days that marked the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in the United States.
Although this is an important, heartbreaking, inspiring book, the restrained writing doesn’t make for an engaging book. Chapter 1 opens with a pedigree and family history to establish the importance of education as a key to success, but it’s long and complicated. The narrative details Lanier’s malicious treatment by classmates, and makes the fear and frustration tangible. Her attendance at America’s most beautiful school resulted in a bombing of her family’s home. Her own father, along with a family friend, was suspected of deliberately setting a bomb to get insurance money, and was detained and beaten by local police in an attempt to get a signed confession. This book is as much to clear Herbert Mont’s name and set historical record straight as it is to share Lanier’s high school experience and reflect upon it’s implications.
Several pages of black and white photos include primary source documents. Primary sources are not footnoted but are documented in an endnotes list.