augusta free press news

Civil-rights hero to speak in Staunton on June 15

Elizabeth (Betty) Johnson Rice, who was a student leader in the largest single sit-in of the civil rights movement, which led to the desegregation of department store lunch counters and other public places in Richmond, will be the keynote speaker for the Waynesboro NAACP Annual Freedom Fund Banquet, June 15. The banquet will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Rice was also one the first black teachers to integrate Petersburg High School, where on that first day she was greeted by the words “KKK wants you” scrawIed across her blackboard. She says about those tumultuous days, “I was met with racism and jeers from white faculty, students and parents who made it clear they did not want me there.” Yet she was undaunted by such overt racism. Here more than 40 years later, Rice relishes how she spoke “the truth at each confrontation until I had a wide acceptance as a qualified human being …It became one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.”

A passionate soul committed to “the betterment of all mankind,” Rice has spent her life teaching and mentoring youth, working diligently for social justice and equal opportunity, and she daily walks the path of peace and nonviolence.

I am privileged to call her my friend and hero, and I will be introducing her at the banquet.

For tickets and additional information, please contact Joyce Colemon at 540-943-2312.

– News item from Nick Patler