COLORADO SPRINGS — The start of Black History Month is a week away, and a Colorado Springs museum is sharing stories of airmen who broke down barriers for African Americans.
The National WWII Aviation Museum is known for sharing WWII stories and artifacts and the importance that each had on the war.
Gene Pfeffer, historian and curator at the museum, says many of his favorite stories center on black history and the role of African Americans in the war.
“You can’t help but admire the role General Benjamin O. Davis played as a commander — who helped create this unit, who pushed this unit and led it,” Pfeffer said.
The museum houses many exhibits showcasing African Americans and the importance they had on the front lines and at home.
Pfeffer said each of the stories, big or small, all make up the full story of the war – how we won, the social change and legacy we have today and more. He said he believed it was important for the museum to share every story and he was proud to tell them every day.
“They were not welcomed with open arms. In many cases, they weren’t always given the best planes first, so they were under a microscope. Could they do this? Could they prove that black men can do what white men can do? said Pfeffer.
Exhibits at the museum include Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American United States Air Force military airmen, Colorado Springs resident, and B-25 bomber Samuel Hunter, known for his role in the Freeman Field Mutiny who pushed for equal rights for African American pilots in the military. There are also exhibits about African American men and women who served in positions they were not allowed to hold on the home front.
“Men who normally held positions in manufacturing and industry had gone into the army to fight in the war. We needed other people to step in and fill those voids, and it provided an opportunity for women and women of color to step forward and take industrial jobs they never had before. opportunity to do before,” Pfeffer said.
He said every story fit into the bigger one, and without these people it would be impossible to tell the whole story of World War II.
“It is important to share how they fought in harsher conditions than most and to understand how they fit into the bigger picture of World War II victory – how the civilians who mobilized and took defense jobs become integrated, how that created social change and part of the continuum from segregated past to integrated present. So that’s part of the story,” Pfeffer said.
For more information on each of the stories shared at the National WWII Aviation Museum, visit website for tickets.
For this story and others like it, tune in to FOX21 News’ Black History Month special on Saturday, February 5.