Sunday, January 17, 2010

MLK prayer breakfast Pays Tribute to Former Langston Students


NET News Service

JOHNSON CITY — The Johnson City faith community, elected leaders and area citizens came together Saturday morning to celebrate the life and work of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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The Langston Heritage Group hosted its eighth annual prayer breakfast at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, 225 Princeton Road, and about 150 people participated.
Organizer Mary Alexander described this year’s theme as, “a generational connectivity program.” The breakfast was a tribute to pioneers of the area’s civil rights roots and a symbolic passing of the torch to a new generation of African-American leaders.

Youth groups from five area churches organized a program reciting scriptures, highlighting important portions of King’s speeches and leading prayers for peace and justice.
The program began by paying tribute to some of the surviving members of the student led protest at Langston School, Johnson City’s former all-black middle and high school. On April 14, 1954, 140 students carried signs and marched to the office of School Superintendent John Arrants.

Before Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus boycott in 1955-56, before the march on Washington in 1963, and almost a decade before President John F. Kennedy ordered federal troops to integrate the University of Alabama, students at Johnson City’s Langston School marched to protest the unfair firing of their beloved principal, J. Neil Armstrong.
Alexander, a local history professor, said Armstrong was fired because one student clapped at the completion of a prayer at an assembly. The school board said this was an indication Armstrong was unable to maintain order within his school.

Alexander, as well as the surviving Langston students, said the real reason for his dismissal was that Armstrong was on the cusp of earning an advanced degree that would lead to a promotion and threaten the power structure of the board.
Armstrong had been the school’s principal for 17 years.
This is the sixth year Mayor Jane Myron has participated in the prayer breakfast. “This is part of the history of Johnson City,” Myron said.
“It just warms my heart to see that these women are being honored for the difference they’ve made in our city.

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