Museum celebrates Black History Month

  • Published
  • By Rob Bardua
  • National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
As part of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force's celebration of Black History Month in February, several exhibits in the Air Power Gallery feature contributions from prominent black Airmen in Air Force history.

The exhibit features Gen. Daniel James Jr., the Air Force's first black four-star general; Lt. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., the first of the famous Tuskegee Airmen to become a general; and the 332nd Fighter Group, a segregated black unit stationed at Lockbourne Air Base near Columbus, Ohio, that won first place in the conventional class category of the 1949 U.S. Air Force Fighter Gunnery Competition.

During World War II, the U.S. military segregated African Americans into separate units. However, the U.S. Army Air Forces gave blacks a unique opportunity to do sophisticated engineering work in segregated Engineering Aviation Battalions, or EABs. These specially trained units constructed, concealed, maintained and defended airfields in every theater.

Eventually, these black Airmen disproved the unfortunate belief that blacks could not do complicated construction or engineering work. The museum's exhibit portrays a scene of black aviation engineers working on an airfield in the China-Burma-India Theater.

The Air Force published regulations dismantling segregation June 1, 1949, thus becoming the first of all U.S. military service branches to complete integration of black Airmen into all-white units. This story is presented in an exhibit titled "Integration of the USAF."

The museum also features an exhibit on the Tuskegee Airmen. On July 19, 1941, the AAF began a program in Alabama to train black Americans as military pilots. Primary flight training was conducted by the Division of Aeronautics of Tuskegee Institute, the famed school of learning founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881. The exhibit presents uniforms, photos and other mementos of the Tuskegee Airmen.

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is located on Springfield Pike, six miles northeast of downtown Dayton. It is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission and parking are free.

The museum is the world's largest and oldest military aviation museum. More than 1 million people visit the museum each year to see its nearly 350 aircraft and aerospace vehicles and to walk through more than 17 acres of indoor exhibit space.

For more information, contact the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at 937-255-3286, ext. 302.

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