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Black History is my history
Black History Dave Walls


Special to the Journal


Black History is my history … it’s woven through my heart and soul. It’s what I grew up on … stories from my father about growing up in the segregated South. My story might not be that different from many other African Americans – but ... it’s my story. Both my parents came from the South--my mom, Vinnie Y. Walls, from Shreveport, Louisiana, in the back country in a two-room shack with no indoor plumbing. My father (who I consider the coolest man I’ve ever known) came from Vicksburg, Mississippi, and a family of 19. My dad, Roscoe Walls, was the second oldest and worked his entire young life so that his siblings could go to school and have a better life. My father was all about hard work – he literally grew up on a plantation. Here was a man who was born in 1905 and went to be with the Lord in 1993 (as the church ladies would say) lived a life that I could only dream about. Eighty-eight years through the Great Depression, two World Wars, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement and all of the advancements of the 20th century. Out of all of that … not once did my dad preach hate. My dad had a way about him. If he lived today you would say he had swag (none of it trickled down to me). He was the kind of man that didn’t even have to work at it … it just oozed out. The confidence and charisma made him stand out and stand apart.

When my dad was in his early 30s, he worked at a paper mill. He had the gift of gab and could talk to almost anyone at any time. On his way home from the mill one night, he and several of his co-workers walked the railroad tracks as they headed home at 2 in the morning. My dad’s reputation preceded him and he was surrounded by a group of hooded men. As they approached the walking group, they called for the one named Roscoe. My dad, never one to back down, stepped forward. The hooded group surrounded him forcing him to the ground and brutally beat him that day and attempted to cut off his lip leaving a scar he bore his entire life. My dad and his friends were rescued from certain death that night by several workers from the mill who came to their aid.

After the war my dad made his way north to Chicago and New York and eventually to Los Angeles, California as part of the Great Black Migration. I don’t ever think my dad forgot his experiences in the South and those experiences formed a belief, perception, attitude and position in life in terms of how he treated others; my dad never preached or displayed a hateful bone in his body. He would tell me to treat others the way I wanted to be treated: "I don’t care about color; I care about the character of a man." He would often say, "All a man has is his word. You do the right thing and it will come back to you two-fold."

I’ve tried to live my life the way Roscoe Walls lived his. That’s my Black history … from a man who had a 2nd grade education and told me that I could be anything I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be president. I wanted to be a teacher, educator, instructor, motivator and leader of young men and women. Blessed by the grace of God … I accomplished everything I wanted because my history, my black history was Roscoe Walls’ history.

—  Dave Walls is a Social Studies teacher and Athletic Director at Pitman High School.