Happy Veterans Day: New Exhibit Honors Contributions of Black Americans In U.S. Military

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Veterans Day
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American servicemen to serve as pilots in the U.S. Armed Forces. (Image courtesy of History.com)

A new exhibit at Troy University’s Rosa Park Museum is celebrating the noble service of African-American men and women during World War II.

The “EO 9981: Escaping Jim Crow” gallery, which opened Thursday, Nov. 9, commemorates the contributions of African-Americans such as the Tuskegee Airmen and others who served in segregated units during the war, according to the university’s news site. Referencing the executive order by President Harry Truman that ended segregation in the U.S. military, the exhibit also highlights the integration of the U.S. Air Force in 1950.

“This exhibition commemorates the African American men and women who served valiantly during World War II,” museum director Dr. Felicia Bell said. “They risked their lives for their country while overcoming the obstacles of segregation and discrimination within the U.S. Armed Forces.”

“Rosa Parks and her husband, Raymond, are part of this story,” Bell added. “We’re excited to share it with our visitors.”

The gallery is a collaborative effort of the Rosa Parks Museum, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the Air University History Office and Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell Air Force Base and Enlisted Heritage Hall at Gunter Annex, according to the school. Parks herself once commented on the integration of the local Air Force Base, saying, “You might just say Maxwell opened my eyes up. It was an alternative reality to the ugly policies of Jim Crow.”‘

The exhibit is open for free viewing Monday through Friday and all military personnel, both active and retired, will be granted free admission to the museum ahead of Veterans Day. It will run until Jan. 2, 2018.

The university museum isn’t the only one looking to honor Black servicemen, however. In Charlottesville, Va., the site of the deadly white nationalist rally this summer, more than a dozen exhibitors are set to gather at the local Carver Recreation Center to share stories, artifacts and memorabilia detailing what it was like for Black vets serving in the military during segregation.

“The freedoms that Americans enjoy, grandfathers and fathers, brothers and sons, participated and died for the right to exist here,” co-organizer and local artist Frank Walker, told local station CBS 19.

“This event will give them a totally different perspective,” fellow organizer Maaxine Holland said. “It is a history lesson.”

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