Kinsey hosts Black History Month event with Tuskegee Airmen

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 24 – State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila., today hosted documented original Tuskegee Airmen for a Black History Month conversation at Cliveden of the National Trust in Philadelphia.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first group of African American military aviators, who fought during World War II. Despite facing rigid racial barriers and constant segregation, these airmen were among the most accomplished and effective pilots of the entire war. Upwards of 900 pilots who graduated from Tuskegee Airfield flew 1,578 missions and 15,533 sorties, destroying 261 enemy aircraft and earning themselves more than 850 medals, collectively.

In World War I, African Americans were prohibited from serving as military pilots in the U.S. Armed Forces. On March 22, 1941, U.S. Army Air Corps 99 Pursuit Squadron was activated to become the first African American fighter squadron. The members of the 99 Pursuit Squadron were the first to be known as Tuskegee Airmen because they received their initial flight training at a segregated air base in Tuskegee, Ala.

This event centered around a conversation about the Tuskegee Airmen’s experiences of serving their country, while facing racism, segregation and inequality.

“The Tuskegee Airmen embody bravery and heroism. They chose to serve their country at a time, when they were not seen as equal simply due to the color of their skin,” Kinsey said. “Despite the cruel treatment they faced from their country, they risked their lives fighting for it and were a vital part of our success in World War II.”

The Tuskegee Airmen who were present for today’s conversation were Dr. Eugene J. Richardson Jr., and Alma Elizabeth Bailey. The Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen was there as well. 

The audience consisted of students from Lingelbach School, who Kinsey invited, and northwest Philadelphia community members.

Kinsey said it was important for those in attendance to hear the airmen’s stories.

“It was terrific for members of our community to come out and hear the incredible stories the airmen told. It is important that we honor all Black heroes and groundbreakers and show what so many African Americans have contributed to our country. Northwest Philadelphia has a very large African American population, and for those in attendance to see and hear stories from Black historymakers during Black History Month was hopefully very inspiring.” 

One of the airmen who was supposed to be at today’s conversation was Nathan D. Thomas; however, he was not able to attend due to health concerns. Mr. Thomas is a good friend of Kinsey’s, and he asked that everyone keep him in their prayers.

Kinsey co-sponsored a bipartisan bill (H.B. 2586) that passed in November that established Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day in Pennsylvania, which will now be recognized on March 29 every year. 

This event was partnered with state Reps. Anthony Bellmon, Roni Green, Tarik Khan, Darisha Parker and Chris Rabb, all D-Phila.