News: Selma to Montgomery to El Paso, the historic trail continues
Story by Sgt. Ida Irby
FORT BLISS, Texas – El Pasoan Dan Webb, a retired Army 1st Sgt., continues to host a museum-quality African American history exhibition for more than 30 years. His personal collection will be the centerpiece of many remembrances throughout El Paso and the Fort Bliss community this year.
Webb, native of Selma, Ala., shared his private exhibition, Jan. 17, 2013 at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. tribute hosted by the 15th Sustainment Brigade at the Centennial Conference and Banquet Center. Webb’s collection is centered on the civil rights movement because he hopes to spread the rich history of African Americans in this nation.
On January 21, America honors the legacy of Dr. King and February is Black History month. This month was chosen to reflect the birth of both President Abraham Lincoln the sixteenth president and social reformer Fredrick Douglass, who both fought for the abolition of slavery. Douglass met with President Lincoln July 1863 to discuss the salary and promotion of minority troops, asking that their valor in battle reflected their equal treatment.
Important pieces of history can be understood through use of the historic memorabilia in Webb’s collection. This traveling display is slated to appear at schools, churches, and college events throughout Black History month.
Webb carefully chooses items from his collection for a unique display to reflect each ceremony. To accompany the Dr. King display: photos of Dr. King’s family, a wooden support column from the Dexter Ave. Baptist Church, and Selma memorabilia coins are a few items displayed. Webb also played Dr. King’s, “I have a dream speech” on vinyl.
“This speech is one of the most profound speeches in the world. It was made famous at the Lincoln Memorial. The dream of Dr. King can be celebrated in the military today,” said Webb as he listed off the numerous African Americans in our military chain of command, to include President Barack Obama.
After meeting Dr. Martin Luther King, 12-year-old Webb’s life was forever transformed.
According to Webb, his favorite pieces of history were the marches in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery that included three demonstrations by black, white, Asian and Latino marchers. Protesters walked from Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church to cross a bridge led by the by civil rights leaders John Hill and Dr. King.
The marches led to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, calling the marches “a turning point in man's unending search for freedom.”
Webb’s younger sister, Sheyann Webb-Christburg, was titled Dr. King’s “smallest freedom fighter” at 8-years-old, she later became the inspiration for the movie, "Selma, Lord, Selma," Webb said.
“When I go home to Selma, I visit the shotgun house my father was born and raised in,” said Webb; as he spoke of his father, John Webb, now 83 years old. “I can still see his eyes as he told me stories of his childhood while walking on his property. During one of my trips home I collected old Coke bottles from the forest behind his house. Those bottles are my favorite antiques in the display, because every time I look at them I am reminded of my father and his life, plus all the memories we have together.”
The bottles collected from Webb’s hometown are now part of his vast collection of antiques, artwork, photos, newspaper clippings, magazines, and memorabilia.
“I want people to enjoy the display, but I really want them to learn the history behind these great leaders,” said Webb.