Black History Month, celebrate and educate

  • Published
  • By Heidi Hunt
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
As we enter the month of February and begin to celebrate Black History Month, I would like to reflect on the importance of remembering African-Americans throughout military history.

Looking back through black history, there has been no shortage of contributions from African-Americans who have served in the military or spent years diligently paving the path to end segregation.

In 1941, seven-years prior to total desegregation, the Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black corps of fighter pilots, were the first African-American pilots in the U.S. Armed Forces. Tuskegee Airmen were considered one of the most prominent groups to pave the way for African-Americans in the Air Force.

In March 1942, the all-black corps graduated the first five African-American fighter pilots under the Army Air Corps pilot training program at Tuskegee Army Airfield, Tuskegee, Ala., making aviation history.

Retired General Benjamin O. Davis Jr., one of the first five members to graduate and the first African-American general in the Air Force, is one of the most famous Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. His military career spanned five decades and three wars. He was the first African-American officer in the Army Air Corps, and was a member of the first African-American pilot-training class at Tuskegee Army Airfield in Ala. He was one of many who faced discrimination and fought their way through segregation.

While the Tuskegee Airmen worked to prove they were capable of handling war planes, they were also being recognized as equals to their white military counterpart.

In 1948, President Harry S. Truman enacted executive order no. 9981, directing equality of treatment and opportunity in all of the U.S. Armed Forces.

When I think of Black History Month, I think about preserving historical movements that lead to freedom and change and reflect on cultural richness. Many African-American servicemembers made advancements and attained high achievement.

As we observe Black History Month and the great Americans who have dedicated their lives to foster change, I urge others to reflect year-round, not only in February. My hope is that everyone takes the time to understand what great movements in history these were and to learn more about our rich heritage.

One way to help celebrate and educate the base populace is by attending the 2011 African American History Month luncheon titled "African Americans and the Civil War" - Feb. 16 from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Mission's End. The 509th Bomb Wing Equal Opportunity office is hosting the event and features guest speaker Gersham A. Nelson, Ph.D., Dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Central Missouri. A Joyful Noise Community Choir from Kansas City, Mo. will also perform historical and contemporary gospel music. For cost and reservations, call (660) 687-5736.

(The History and Heritage of the United States Air Force contributed to this article and can be found on