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Sat, 10.07.1911

Melvin Alston, Educator, and Activist born

Melvin Alston

*Melvin Alston was born on this date in 1911. He was a Black educator and activist. From Norfolk, Virginia, Melvin Ovenus Alston’s father was Sonny Alston, and his mother was Elizabeth Smith, who was born in Long Island, New York.

Alston had many brothers and sisters, and the family attended First Calvary or First Baptist Church in Norfolk. Alston starts school regularly in the 5th grade. There was a teacher that turned his life around when he was in junior high school. The story goes that a teacher handed him a dollar bill and asked him to run and get a couple of hot dogs. In my daddy's mind, he later told his daughter he thought all teachers were rich and thus wanted to become a teacher.

Alston graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk. He completed the course of instruction provided at Virginia State College for Negroes in 1930.  Alston began teaching at Booker T. Washington High School in 1935. In 1937, Alston, with pressure from the NAACP and the Norfolk Teachers Association (NTA), the city's all-black union, joined with its statewide body, the Virginia Teachers Association (VTA), in a legal effort to challenge the discriminatory pay scale established by the City of Norfolk.

As a litigant in Alston v the Board of Education of Norfolk Public Schools and subsequently winning this case with the legal strength of the NAACP (Thurgood Marshall was the attorney), his days in Norfolk were numbered. This was particularly evident as head of the all-black teacher's union and speaking in favor of allowing a three-year plan to equalize the salaries of black and white teachers; Marshall wanted equalization of salaries to be immediate. Dr. Alston graduated from Columbia University with an E.D. degree in educational leadership and mathematics.

Alston married Mama Doris Ruby Newsome, on June 26, 1945, in Norfolk, Virginia. Together they had five children. In 1945, Alston taught in the Math department at Florida A&M University. Melvin O. Alston died on December 30, 1985.

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