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Black History Month

The month of February is dedicated as Black History Month! During this month-long period, we are reviewing the history and contributions of the Black community, as well as highlighting a few community members from the Tri-base area! 

As most military members will know, the US Air Force was formed in 1948. However, it has existed in one form or another since 1907. Most significantly, it existed as the US Army Air Forces during WWII. Prior to 1940, the military did not train Black pilots. After much advocating, Secretary of War Harry Stimson approved a new all-Black fighter squadron (99th) and airbase in Tuskegee, Alabama.

The 99th Fighter Squadron, which was formed with 47 officers and 429 enlisted men, came to be known as the Tuskegee Airmen. These Airmen deployed to northern Africa in 1943, and they stayed within the area until July 1944, when they joined with three other Black squadrons to form the 332nd Fighter Group. When the 332nd formed, all units upgraded to the P-51 Mustangs and painted the tails bright red, earning them the nickname of "Red Tails." This fighter group stayed together until the end of WWII.

The base in Tuskegee continued training and sending out pilots who were having significant successes on the warfront due to their skill and courage. By the time the war in Europe was over, Tuskegee Airmen had flown 311 total missions, 179 of which were bomb-escort missions, even going up against the first jet fighters in 1945. They shot down 112 enemy aircraft, destroyed 150 aircraft on the ground, and knocked out 600 railroad cars and 40 boats and barges!

After the war - due in no small part to the success of the Tuskegee Airmen - the new Chief of Staff, Gen Carl Spaatz, announced in April 1948 that the Air Force would end segregation within its ranks. This came three months before President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 stating that the military must integrate and provide equal opportunity and treatment for all service members.

We thank the Tuskegee Airmen and all other Black service members who have served and continue to serve the United States of America.

Local Spotlights

Each week during the month we'll be highlighting members who are a part of our very own RAF Lakenheath community! Keep an eye out on social media - and add this page your bookmarks - for the next individual's story!

Tyla Scott

Military Affiliation: Active Duty

Cultural Background: American

Tell us about something from your culture that you wish was more widely known/practiced: Black Americans have impacted STEM in positive ways from Katherine Johnson, Dorthy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson who were mathematicians who worked at NASA. Dr Mark Dean who is a computer scientist who played a pivotal role in the development of the personal computer. Black Americans in STEM should be known more widely.

How have you incorporated your culture into your time overseas at this base? I've incorporated my culture in my time overseas by attending events and sharing my customs and traditions.

James Daniels

Military Affiliation: Active Duty

Cultural Background: Black & Hispanic

Tell us about something from your culture that you wish was more widely known/practiced: The history from both sides.

How have you incorporated your culture into your time overseas at this base? Yes!

Fun Fact: I speak Spanish.

Irene Ellison

Military Affiliation: Local National/ Dependent

Cultural Background: German/Nigerian

Tell us about something from your culture that you wish was more widely known/practiced: Nigeria has 8 different languages that are spoken besides English which are: Hausa, Yoruba, Edo (and high my parents are speaking), Igbo, Fulfulde, Ibibio, Kanuri and Tiv.

How have you incorporated your culture into your time overseas at this base? I try to find stores that sell native African/Nigerian foods to make my favorite dishes, one of which is pounded yam with Ogbono soup. DELICIOUS Or I try to find restaurants that cook Nigerian dishes.

Fun Fact about me: I have a good sense of humor that crosses culture boundaries.

Chelsea Lewis

Military Affiliation: Air Force / SSgt / 493 FGS ¡G2BG!

Cultural Background: African American & Pacific Islander

How have you incorporated your culture into your time overseas at this base? While being overseas, I have cooked southern style foods that I grew up with like mac n cheese and collard greens when celebrating holidays with friends.

I would like to highlight women in sports. I play women's tackle football in the states and in England. Through playing the sport, I have met some incredible women and learned a lot about myself. I encourage anyone that has an interest to seek the opportunity, whether its coaching or playing!

Rob Taylor

Military Affiliation: Active Duty

Cultural Background: African American

Tell us about something from your culture that you wish was more widely known/practiced: Black History Month, originally established as Negro History Week in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, holds significant historical roots. Its inception aimed to highlight the contributions and achievements of African Americans. The selection of the second week of February, aligning with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, was deliberate, symbolizing key figures in the fight for civil rights and emancipation. In 1976, Black History Month expanded into a month-long observance, broadening its scope and impact. Today, it stands as a testament to the rich history, culture, and resilience of the African American community, commemorating achievements, struggles, and progress throughout history. 

How have you incorporated your culture into your time overseas at this base? I've made concerted efforts to educate not just those on base, but also our local community. It's astonishing how many individuals remain unaware of diverse cultures. There persists a misconception that Black history is confined to February alone. As a Black individual, my identity is not limited to a single month; I celebrate it every day. Recognizing this truth is essential. To deny color is to overlook the realities of racism. Embracing diversity means acknowledging and appreciating the richness of every hue, every day of the year.

The contributions of Black inventors have profoundly shaped our daily lives in countless ways. From essential household items to life-saving devices, their innovations continue to impact society. Some notable inventions include the air conditioner, baby stroller, clothes dryer, door knob, door stopper, elevator, hairbrush, ice cream scoop, mailbox, gas mask, and stethoscope. These inventions not only demonstrate the ingenuity and creativity of Black inventors but also underscore their significant contributions to technological and societal advancements throughout history.

  1. Black History Month. (n.d.). Retrieved January 8, 2024, from
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Thursday, February 29, 2024

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