He walked through the streets of Selma, Ala., with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to spread a message of equality and love. And on Thursday, Dabney Montgomery, 92, spread that same message to some young minds in Queens.
“The future looks bright,” Montgomery said to a sea of children at Merrick Academy. “Because you stand up straight, you are thinking positive and you are choosing people like Martin Luther King as your hero.”
Montgomery was born in Alabama in 1923. He was one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American military aviation unit in U.S. history, assigned to go into battle against the Nazis during World War II. He said his fight overseas was no different than his fight at home.
He walked with civil rights activists through Selma, Ala., in 1965 during the historic march to Montgomery, Ala., as a bodyguard for King. Montgomery pledged his life to keeping King safe so that he could spread the message of justice and equality for all people in the future.
The 50-mile trek from March 21 to 25 was the third effort to try to reach the Alabama state capital, after two previous attempts were met by state troopers and county sheriff’s deputies, who attacked the marchers with batons and dogs.
Today, the events at Selma have come to the forefront again with the release of a new movie about the march, amid demonstrations across the nation over charges that blacks continue to be the target of police abuse.
Montgomery explained that walking through the streets during the march from Selma made him “tired but happy,” and that he was overjoyed with love from others in the experience that he will never forget.
Montgomery started off his speech by speaking about a 1918 U.S. military document he held up before his audience. He explained to the children that back then, people of color were considered too inept to fly a warplane. He then gave a powerful message about how fighting for your rights for equality and having a “can-do” mentality can go a long way.
“We fought, in spite of the study, in spite of the reign of fire and in spite of all the negative statements said about us,” he told the crowd. “We stood together and we shouted, ‘We will fight! We will fight!’”
In his closing remarks, Montgomery reminded the children to always believe in themselves and that there is a great reward for those who live positively.
“Love one another as brothers and sisters. Fight for the right of men,” he said. “When you are right, don’t compromise.”
- Five interesting facts about Queens home sales in 2014
- Commissioner Bratton talks record crime lows, plans for 2015
- Queens pols and residents tell city to scrap plans for new express bus service