Maxwell and DoDEA Reflect on the History of Pioneering Public School Integration in Alabama > Maxwell Air Force Base > View
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Al. —
This year, the Department of Defense Education Activity, known as DoDEA, celebrates 75 years of military-related student education, engagement, and empowerment. DoDEA is also proud of its history of advocating for justice and equality.
In fact, in 1963, Maxwell Air Force Base‘s DoDEA school, Maxwell Elementary/Middle School, was one of only three integrated public schools in the state of Alabama.
“Maxwell was at the forefront of integrated public education in the South,” said Col. Eries Mentzer, commander of the 42nd Air Base Wing. “The DoDEA School was necessary in 1963 to ensure Maxwell Airmen the freedom to serve, the ability to rise to the best of their abilities knowing that, regardless of race, their military children had access to an integrated, high-quality public education. quality.”
Prior to the mid-1960s, black and white children in the South attended separate schools following the United States Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson decision in 1896, which established the “separate but equal” doctrine, used to justify racial segregation.
Maxwell Elementary School opened in 1938 as a kindergarten and high school for grades 1 through 3 for the children of officers and NCOs assigned to Maxwell Field. In 1940 an elementary school was built on Maxwell for grades 1-6. The base operated the school under the supervision of the Montgomery County School Board.
In March 1948, base management ceded control of Maxwell Elementary School to the Montgomery County School Board. The school board operated the school in accordance with contemporary Alabama laws; that is, like a separate school.
In 1954, the Supreme Court’s decision Brown v Topeka Board of Education overturned Plessy v Ferguson. As a result, the DoD announced that all schools at US military installations would operate in an integrated fashion.
However, the Montgomery County School Board superintendent refused to incorporate Maxwell’s new school facility, located right next to base property, saying it was a violation of the state’s Constitution. ‘Alabama. The language governing separate schooling remains unchanged in the Alabama Constitution today.
As a result, the U.S. government announced on March 16, 1963, that it would build an elementary school on Maxwell that would operate as a fully integrated school.
On September 3, 1963, the new Maxwell Elementary School opened with an initial enrollment of approximately 540 students, including the first black students. Maxwell Elementary School became the first mainstream school in Montgomery County when it hired the first black staff member, librarian Mrs. Wilhelmina Baldwin from Tuskegee Institute in 1963.
Ten to fifteen black students attend the new integrated school. As part of the school integration process, racial distinction was not made on registration cards because, according to the Sorenson principle in 1963, “children are children”.
“It is helpful to understand how DoDEA, through its history, has contributed to the desegregation of education in America,” said Ms. Judith A. Minor, DoDEA Americas Director of Student Excellence. “Our core values of student focus, excellence, continuous improvement, diversity, individual potential, lifelong learning, shared responsibility and trust continue to inspire our mission. . We strive to advance the vision of “educational excellence for every student, every day, everywhere”.
Maxwell and DoDEA continue to work together to provide quality education to military-related students, regardless of race, ethnicity, color, or creed. Maxwell and DoDEA are further expanding educational opportunities by leading a Department of Defense pilot program that allows active duty children who live off base to attend school on base. You can read more about the pilot program on the DoDEA website here.
“We are extremely proud of Maxwell’s role in breaking down barriers to service and promoting high-quality public education in Montgomery. This is another great example of how Maxwell Air Force Base and the military of the air have influenced social justice in America.We thank the DoDEA and our local, county, city and state partners for uniting with Maxwell to ensure education from kindergarten to Grade 12 serves as an opportunity rather than a challenge for Maxwell Airmen, Guardians, and their families. By working together, we can ensure freedom to serve, enabling our Airmen and Guardians to be the most ready to lead in the today’s increasingly complex global security environment.” Mentzer said.