By Senior Airman Alexa Culbert, Air University Public Affairs
/ Published February 27, 2019
An attendee of the “Maxwell and the Movement” exhibit looks over the pictures on display at the Muir S. Fairchild Research Information Center, Feb. 21, 2019, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. The exhibit displayed photos and writings highlighting the successes and challenges overcome by African – Americans here at Maxwell. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Francisco Melendez – Espinosa)
Two attendees of the “Maxwell and the Movement” exhibit catch up with one another at the Muir S. Fairchild Research Information Center, Feb. 21, 2019, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. The attendees of the event included people from the base and Montgomery communities and even as far as Atlanta. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Francisco Melendez – Espinosa)
Dr. Edmond Collier, retired lieutenant colonel and first African – American faculty member at Air University, and his wife, Alma, are featured in the “Maxwell and the Movement” exhibit at the Muir S. Fairchild Research Information Center, Feb. 21, 2019, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Collier’s impact on Air University’s history was validated with his inclusion in the exhibit, Collier and his wife both said that they greatly enjoyed their time at AU. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexa Culbert)
The Muir S. Fairchild Research Information Center debuted a new exhibit titled “Maxwell and the Movement,” Feb. 21, 2019, to highlight the role the base played during a momentous time in our country's history.
Moments in history featured in the exhibit included photos of the 4th Aviation Squadron, which was the first African – American unit at Maxwell, Airmen participating in the 1950’s Bus Boycott and the utilization of the base a federal intervention staging area for the Freedom Rider movement.
“While this exhibit focuses on the challenges and success of Blacks here at Maxwell I want to note how their work set the stage for helping to bring civil rights and equal opportunity to many others including women, our LBGT colleagues, and other communities of color and diversity,” said Dr. Mehmed Ali, Muir S. Fairchild Research Information Center director. “No matter who we are, I believe this display is really a showcase for us all.”
One of the guests was Dr. Edmond Collier, the first African – American to be a permanent faculty member of Air University, and his wife, Alma.
During his time at Air University, Collier led a lecture about minimizing racial based conflicts, which he said received high reviews from the students.
He believes that his lectures were perceived so well from the students, because he didn’t present it confrontationally and the students could relate with him, because he himself was an Air Force officer.
“The importance to highlight that time is because of an experience that happened to me,” he said.
Collier had just flown into Montgomery for the first time and grabbed a cab to the Maxwell Club for a bite to eat, before going to see his then new wife. He explained that at that time the cabs were segregated, and with him out of uniform, the cab driver just assumed he worked at the club and took him around to the back entrance.
Collier said, “I looked up and said ‘this is not that front of the club?’ He was not used to taking people of color to the front door of the club, so he took me around to the back to the kitchen door.”
The “Maxwell and the Movement” exhibit will remain on display at the MSFRIC until Labor Day.
“Let’s take today’s message of memorialization forward and attempt to incorporate it in our actions for the future, “said Ali. “It is not easy to be out in front on issues which are controversial at the time, but I ask you to think about what appeared contentious historically as illustrated here and is now fully accepted…I know that all of us stand for the values that are really embedded in the bedrock of basic human rights. Let’s keep those ideas in the forefront of our daily lives as I believe it will continue to create a better United States Air Force, a better city of Montgomery and a better nation. As the monument in front of the National Archives in our capital declares – the past is prologue. “