joy magnetism: Seeing this thing through

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Seeing this thing through

Magnet #334 - Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

Whew! Big day yesterday, huh.

Amidst a flurry of Facebook statuses that were all over the place - from extreme jubilation and awe, to hand-wringing and portents of doom (No surprise, since my FB friends are pretty much evenly divided between New York and North Carolina.) - one status stuck out for me:

"____ ____ says whether you voted for Obama or not, you cannot and must not dismiss the historical significance of yesterday's events."

Too true.

To wit: The inclusion of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Apparently, the Obama campaign invited the surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen to the inauguration. And about 200 accepted. Which makes me even happier that my sister and her fiance went to visit this national historic site, and brought me back this magnet.

You can learn a lot more here, or by watching the movie, but if you don't know, the Tuskegee Airmen were the only all-black fighter group to fly in WWII. The then-segregated military was under pressure to expand the role of African Americans in the war effort. And so the Army Air Corps began their great "military experiment" at a small black college - Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington - in Alabama.

They already had a civilian flight program in place, but in the end, the Tuskegee Airmen included the airmen (pilots, navigators, bombardiers), their instructors, and maintenance and support staff. These men and women trailblazed their way through history, trying to overcome segregation and prejudice, and proving themselves one of the most respected fighter groups in the War.

And, in July 1948, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order No. 9981 which provided for "equality of treatment and opportunity in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin." This order marked the first time a president used an executive order to implement civil rights principles, widely considered a major victory for civil rights advocates.

Flashforward 60 years, where a man by the name of Spann Watson, from Westbury, NY, and several of his fighter group, journeyed to DC to see Barack Obama become president. Mr. Watson's 92 years old! And flew in formation for Harry Truman's inauguration ceremonies!

C'mon. How amazing is that?

His "Invitation to History" was captured in this NYTimes video.

Bring tissue.
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jen said...

I love that movie. And I met an airman in Cincinnati. He was so nice!

joy said...

Awww, did you say Thank you?

julie said...

awwww... tuskegee airmen! i saw that the CNN cams showed them a couple times during the speech. SO cute! i love military oldies! :)

and... you guys should def. go to the tukegee airmen historic site in AL (ONLY good thing about AL)... but go in a couple of years when they've rebuilt it all. it looks to be amazing based on their architectural models on display. but the orientation videos they show are SOOOOO great!

joy said...

Yeah, I think I can safely say it'll be a while before I go to Alabama. But, there's a part of me that believes that the state could be a trip all on its own.

OMG, maybe *that's* what I should do. Every year, pick a state and go visit! Oooooooh.

Erika said...

I vote for S Dakota, Joy. You know, home of Mt Rushmore. What?