Air Force

February 1, 2013

AF’s highest ranking African-American shares ties to civil rights movement

by Master Sgt. Jess D. Harvey
Air Force Public Affairs Agency
civil rights2
Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer speaks at a Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration at the Robert Russa Moton Museum in Farmville, Va., Jan. 12, 2013. Spencer recounted his mother’s experience on April 23, 1951, when she and more than 450 other students walked out of the all-black, R. R. Moton High School in Farmville, demanding equality. (U.S. Air Force photo / Lt. Col. John Sheets)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On April 23, 1951, more than 450 students collectively walked out the front doors of the all-black, R. R. Moton High School in Farmville, Va., marching to the home doorsteps of school-board members in the community.

Among the students who walked out that day was Selma Gaines, now Selma Spencer, the mother of Gen. Larry Spencer, the Air Force vice chief of staff and the service’s highest ranking African-American.

“I am reminded of Dr. King’s words, ‘Courage is an inner resolution to go forth despite obstacles. Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances,’” said Spencer, keynote speaker at Robert Russa Moton Museum in Farmville Jan.12. “What happened here at Moton High School is something that we all should be proud of, because it changed history. It changed where this country was going. It woke this country up. It led to de-segregating our schools.”

Fueled by conditions at the school, the walkout was organized by a classmate of Selma’s.

“The overcrowding was so bad that there was a broken-down school bus where they also taught students,” the general said.

At that point, the students weren’t asking for desegregation. Instead, they were simply demanding a better school. Moton High was only built to accommodate 150 students.

“The students, at the time, were more interested in the separate-but-equal issue. They wanted better accommodations,” Spencer said.

The term separate but equal was a legal ruling used at the time that justified segregation as long as each group was given its own, equal facility.

In addition to being overcrowded, the school was also missing key facilities that white schools had, such as a gym. Therefore, the students, led by 16-year-old Barbara Johns, decided to do something about it.

“Nearly all of the students walked out that day and marched to homes of school board members, starting a two-week strike where students refused to return to school,” said Spencer.

The walkout got the attention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who stepped in to help the students.

“An NAACP organizer convinced the parents of the striking students that the strike would only succeed if students attacked segregation head on,” Spencer said.

The students’ actions evolved into the only student-initiated lawsuit of its kind, adding momentum to an ongoing movement to end segregation in America. Their lawsuit, Dorothy Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward, was later incorporated into the Brown v. Board of Education case where the Supreme Court ruled segregation was unconstitutional.

Selma told the crowd at the museum that she is not bitter about events of that time, but instead is thankful for her experiences.

“I cannot say, at this point in time, that I am angry about anything that happened during that time,” she said. “I have been able to see so many wonderful things in my life. I thank God for the journey he has taken me on.”

The connection between what Spencer has accomplished in his career and what his mother and more than 400 other students did that day in 1951 is not lost on him.

“My mother, her classmates and countless others during the civil rights movement are a key reason why I wear this Air Force uniform today,” he said. “Many people sacrificed a lot back then to change a country that now allows me and others to graciously and happily sacrifice for it.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Russell S. McMillan

March dedicates base barbershop to longtime barber

U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Russell S. McMillan Col. Russell A. Muncy, commander, 452nd Air Mobility Wing, March Air Reserve Base presents Nancy M. Alvarez with the new barbershop signage honoring her late husband and fo...
 
 

Preventing childhood obesity through awareness

Each September, during National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, we renew our efforts to reverse the continuing crisis of obesity among our nation’s youth. Every child, regardless of ethnicity, socio-economic background, or ability, should have equal access to healthy food options and physical activity opportunities. The epidemic of childhood obesity threatens the future of our young...
 
 

Crash memories still painful for B-17 navigator

(Sixth in an 11-part series that was first run in the Beacon in 2007) The sound of footsteps at night on the wooden walkway outside his hut filled 2nd Lt. Sidney Solomon with dread. It was always a GI coming to notify him and his B-17 Flying Fortress crewmates they would be part of a...
 

 
U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash

State of Air Force Reserve discussed at AFA

U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash Chief of the Air Force Reserve Lt. Gen. James F. Jackson, gives his insight on the reserve component during Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition, in Wash...
 
 
U.S. Navy photo by Greg Vojtko/Released

Riverside hosts inaugural 9/11 tribute concert

U.S. Navy photo by Greg Vojtko/Released Capt. Stephen Murray commanding officer at Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Corona Division, right, and Col. Russell Muncy, commanding officer of 452nd Air Mobility Wing at March Air ...
 
 

U.S. Air Force to change instructions for oaths

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Air Force has instructed force support offices across the service to allow both enlisted members and officers to omit the words “So help me God” from enlistment and officer appointment oaths if an Airman chooses. In response to concerns raised by Airmen, the Department of the Air Force requested an opinion...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin