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.


 
 

 

Air Force Fitness Management System slated for upgrade

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas — Active-duty, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard officers and enlisted members who want to maintain copies of their pre-July 2010 fitness records need to access the Air Force Fitness Management System (AFFMS) and save or print their records by Dec. 30, Air Force Personnel Center officials said Dec....
 
 

Gen. Hyten: Future of AF is air, space, cyberspace integration

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The commander of Air Force Space Command talked about the fundamental relationship between space operations and everyday life – not only for the military, but for the American people – during a breakfast at the Capitol Hill Club, Dec. 5. Gen. John E. Hyten, the AFSPC commander, explained the complexities of global...
 
 

Air Force looks at innovative acquisition processes

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — With new technologies rapidly coming to the forefront of the global stage, remaining the world’s greatest air force comes at an escalating cost, making responsible spending and cost-cutting initiatives high priorities for Air Force leadership. The Air Force Office of Acquisitions is partnering with industry to realize some of these initiatives and...
 

 

Officials Highlight Health, Wellness Resources for Military Families

WASHINGTON – As efforts continue to strengthen service members and their families, Pentagon officials held a Bloggers Roundtable to highlight the myriad resources available to tackle the unique military and transitional challenges those who serve may face. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy Rosemary Freitas Williams, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj....
 
 

AF closes FY14 force management programs

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Airmen who met the service’s reduction in force board were notified of the board’s results Nov. 19, bringing the fiscal year 2014 force management programs to an end. The RIF board selected 354 captains and majors across the Air Force for non-retention, half of the number the service previously projected it would...
 
 

AF expands digital library content for Airmen

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) — Airmen at 19 Air Force installations around the world will soon have access to a new 200-title audiobook and eBook digital library, Air Force officials said. The 19 participating installations will help test digital content distribution using the new Air Force eReader AERO; a single portable device developed...
 




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