African-American Military Aviators On Hand To Tell Their Story

African-American Military Aviators

They were our nation’s first African-American military aviators. The Tuskegee Airmen peaked at 1,000 pilots and 15,000 ground crew during World War II. Now, only 40 pilots and 200 ground crew are alive today. Florida’s Fantasy of Flight aircraft collection continues to honor the airmen with a series of symposiums coming up in 2013 as well as their annual student essay contest.

“Reading the student essays last year, it was clear how much the participants were influenced by the Tuskegee Airmen, both by the men they met in person at the ‘They Dared to Fly’ symposium, as well as through the research they conducted on their own,” said Kim Long, General Manager, Fantasy of Flight in a statement.

Dedicated to preserving historic moments in aviation history and inspiring future generations to greatness, Fantasy of Flight is inviting students to help with this mission by sharing their impressions of the Tuskegee Airmen of WWII in essay form.Themed “They Dared To Fly,” the contest invites central Florida students in grades 6-12 to enter the contest, referring to the L.E.A.D. values that put the Tuskegee Airmen in the history books – Leadership, Excellence, Advocacy and Determination.

First place winners in each of two categories (grades 6-8 and 9-12) will take home $500; two second place winners each will receive $300.

Fantasy of Flight’s 2013 Legends & Legacies Symposium Series continues with several open-forum/question-and-answer sessions as well as meet-and-greet autograph signings with some of the original Tuskegee Airmen Feb. 7-9, 2013. The event will be held in celebration of Black History Month and marks the first of six symposiums.

Other topics scheduled for 2013 include Beyond the Battlefield, March 8-9; The First World War, April 6; D-Day: Normandy & Beyond, May 3-4; Espionage: The Cold War, Oct. 4-5 and Veteran’s Day Salute: A Celebration of Service, Nov. 9-10, 2013.

Symposium events are included in the price of Fantasy of Flight general admission and are free for annual pass holders.



[Photo Credit- Flickr user Suzanne_C_Walker]

Washington, D.C. breaks ground today for brand new National Museum of African American History and Culture

african american history This morning, Washington, D.C. held a groundbreaking ceremony for their brand new National Museum of African American History and Culture that will be the Smithsonian Institution’s 19th museum. The event, attended by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, marked Black History Month by celebrating a new kind of history museum that looks to educate people through a candid representation of African American life, art and culture.

Says Museum Director Lonnie Bunch, “What this museum can do is if we tell the unvarnished truth in a way that’s engaging and not preachy, what I think will happen is that by illuminating all the dark corners of the American experience, we will help people find reconciliation and healing.”

While the project won’t be completed until 2015, you can still visit the National Museum’s current gallery at the Smithsonian (shown above). Until October 14, 2012, visitors can view the exhibition, “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty.” The showcase tells the story of President Thomas Jefferson and his conflicting roles of being a slave owner and an anti-slavery advocate. It’s a good example of the museum telling the kinds of stories that are often seen as taboo, but are important to get out to the public.

The seven-level museum will feature architecture and decor inspired by African culture and will eventually feature exhibits on military history, sports, pop culture and music, including items like Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, a Jim Crow-era segregated railroad car, and much more. So far, $100 million has been raised in private funds, and the museum will now begin attempts to raise public funds in order to meet their $250 million goal.

For more information on the National Museum of African American History and Culture, click here.

Vintage aircraft collection to feature Legends and Legacies Series

vintage aircraft collectionsFor aviation fans, visiting a vintage aircraft collection is about as good as it gets. Scattered around the United States from Richmond, Virginia to Galveston, Texas, aircraft of yesteryear are available to view and some even still fly. One collection, Fantasy of Flight in Florida, takes it all a step further with its Fourth Annual Legends & Legacies Symposium Series, which features new and seldom explored stories of World War II and the Vietnam War, told by some of the aviators who were actually there themselves.

“Each year, the Legends & Legacies experience is different from the last, with new guest speakers, new stories, new interactions with guests, and new topics to explore, including three all-new events this year,” said Kim Long, General Manager of Fantasy of Flight. “The opportunity to hear firsthand from military veterans, especially those who fought in World War II and Vietnam, is a precious gift that we hope to share with as many guests as possible throughout the 2012 series.”It’s a forum for the public to hear firsthand about the experiences of some of America’s most courageous aviators and military heroes through exhibits, real aircraft, and most importantly, their own personal stories, recollections from their family members, and interactions with guests. The multi-day events feature open-forum, question-and-answer sessions as well as meet and greet autograph signings with the guest speakers.

The 2012 Legends & Legacies Symposium Series includes:

They Dared to Fly: Tuskegee Airmen, Feb. 9-11 – In honor of Black History Month, several of the nation’s first African-American military aviators will share their personal stories of what it was like to serve as a World War II pilot in the military during segregated America. Fantasy of Flight has a permanent multi-media Tuskegee Airmen exhibit and vintage aircraft collection, including the P-51C Mustang, provide the perfect backdrop to meet the men who fought America’s enemies abroad while enduring racism at home.

Breaking All Barriers: Amazing Women in American History, March 2-3 – In honor of National Women’s History Month, Fantasy of Flight celebrates the barrier breaking women who took on non-traditional roles during WWII, including the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), the first women to fly military aircraft, and all those entered the workforce for the first time in the spirit of “Rosie the Riveter.”

Unspoken Valor: The Bomber Crews of World War II, April 13-14 – New to the Legends & Legacies line up this year, the event promises harrowing tales from actual crewmen of WWII bomber planes such as the B-25 Mitchell, B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator, all incredible planes with amazing strengths but potentially catastrophic weaknesses.

D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy, May 11-12 – Guests will relive the most complex military initiative in world history as the men who were there recount their experiences as part of this massive air, land, and sea attack. Months in the making, it required the coordination of thousands of Allied forces, who once set in motion, could not be called back.

Reflections of Vietnam, June 8-9 – Fantasy of Flight’s Legends & Legacies series will explore the Vietnam War, America’s longest conflict and first military failure on foreign soil. Here, those who served will share their personal experiences about this complicated and emotional time in U.S. history.

Letters Home: Love, Courage & Survival, Oct. 12-13 -The final event of the 2012 series is based on the personal handwritten correspondence exchanged between the men who fought abroad and the women and loved ones they left behind. Whether they were high school sweethearts separated by the war or soldiers who met the love of their lives while serving overseas, their letters portray a wartime experience that can’t be found in history books.

Symposium events are included in the price of Fantasy of Flight general admission and are free for annual pass holders. For more information about Fantasy of Flight, call 863-984-3500 or visit FantasyOfFlight.com.

Walk in the steps of a great leader

Dr KingFebruary is Black History Month, a time to remember important people and events in history. It’s the history of a nation delayed from realizing a great deal of it’s potential through callous bigotry. It’s people like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr who made a difference and were a driving force in a movement that would finally bring change.

This year, lonely planet has an idea for something meaningful we can do to honor the past, celebrate today and look forward to an even better tomorrow.

Lonely Planet is offering a free PDF itinerary called “Tracing Martin Luther King, Jr.,” which outlines a trip across America’s south, following the civil rights leader’s road from Atlanta to that fateful date in Memphis.

It’s a distance of 600 miles over 3 or 4 days and the best time to go is between March and May.

On April 4, 1968, a true American hero was silenced in Memphis, Tennessee. But the words and life of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr will forever remain in the public consciousness as the soundtrack to civil rights. This eye-opening journey traces his revolutionary footsteps, starting in Atlanta and continuing on to Memphis, stopping in Jackson, Mississippi and Montgomery, Alabama to see a house where King once lived which is now a museum.

An included narrative adds a surreal element of detail not normally touched on by contemporary sources.

“The next day, while standing on the balcony outside room 306 at the Lorraine Motel on the south end of downtown Memphis, a shot rang out that took off half of MLK, Jr’s neck and jaw. He collapsed, one foot hanging off the railing, and died. Two months later, James Earl Ray was captured at London’s Heathrow Airport (on the same day that Senator Robert Kennedy, who was also assassinated, was laid to rest)…”

Even just reading through the well-written .pdf file brings back vivid memories for those alive at the time and a reason to be thankful for all the work done for those who were not.

Black History Month is celebrated in the United States and Canada in February and in the United Kingdom in October.

First all female African American flight crew makes history

I love good news from the aviation world – it really does bring a smile to my face amongst all the doom and gloom stories out there.

A good example of something great comes from regional carrier Atlantic Southeast Airlines. For the first time in history, a domestic US flight was staffed by an all female African American flight crew.

The 4 – Captain Rachelle Jones, First Officer Stephanie Grant, and flight attendants Diana Galloway and Robin Rogers probably did not know that they were about to make history when they boarded their flight from Atlanta to Nashville.

When the crew realized the importance of their flight, they were naturally quite excited, and captain Jones said ” this could be a first, so let’s be on our P’s and Q’s”.

ASA President Brad Holt issued the following statement: “Not only are these women gifted in their professions, but they set examples for young people across the country that with hard work, passion and determination, the sky is the limit.”

Atlantic Southeast Airlines has a special contact page, where you can leave your own message of congratulations to the crew of flight 5202.

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