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Moving Forward: From Space-Age Rides to Civil Rights Sit-Ins with Airman Alton Yates

February 03, 2023

Guardian Catholic School

Author Chris Barton first learned about Lt. Col. Alton Yates through StoryCorps. The broadcast sparked the author’s curiosity and set him on a journey to research whatever he could find out about this Air Force veteran who dedicated his life to propelling America forward—from space travel to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond. He finally located Lt. Col. Yates in Jacksonville, Florida and met with him about the possibility of telling his story in a children’s book. Lt. Col Yates agreed, saying that it was important to preserve the story for future generations. In January 2022 Chris Barton published his inspiring nonfiction picture book: Moving Forward: From Space-Age Rides to Civil Rights Sit-Ins with Airman Alton Yates.

When Barton came to Jacksonville to launch his book, Yates put him in touch with Guardian Catholic School to see if we were interested in a visit from the author. We definitely were! Author Chris Barton and Lt. Col. Alton Yates were our guests for a book-signing assembly in early December.

In preparation for this unique visit, teachers in grades 4-6 read the book to their students, discussed it and prepared questions for both the author and for Lt. Col. Alton Yates. They engaged in an amazing discussion which brought Mr. Yates' experiences to life. Mr. Yates spoke about his service in the US Air Force, during which he volunteered for dangerous space-age experiments. After risking his life for his country in the name of scientific progress, Alton returned home to Jacksonville, Florida, and became involved in the NAACP Youth Council and helped organize 1960’s Civil Rights era sit-ins that culminated in the infamous Ax Handle Saturday. Mr. Yates shared these encouraging words of hope with the students: “To get to know people who are not like you in a meaningful way is one of the most beautiful experiences one can have in this life. I want us to feel the joy and excitement of what it is like to be one family.”