UND welcomes Curator of the Tuskegee Airmen Ron Spriggs at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 26, in Clifford Hall Auditorium. Spriggs’ visit to UND is part of UND’S month long celebration of Black History Month in February.
The Ron Spriggs Exhibit of Tuskegee Airmen (RSETA) was founded in December 2002 as an independent means of telling the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.
RSETA fosters the theory that Tuskegee Airmen are not just Black history; Tuskegee Airmen are American history. It also believes that history untold is history lost. That is why it’s so important to keep light on this subject to learn how they overcame segregation in the defeat of the Axis Powers of World War II.
The Tuskegee Airmen were a stellar example of accomplishment and discipline during WWII. RSETA’s origin stems from the fact that this segment of American history received so little recognition and attention in the school system. RSETA’s humble beginnings started at the Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, KY., followed by an exhibition at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Louisville, KY.
Since then thousands of elementary and college students have received oral history from “Uncle Ron’s” presentations.
History of Tuskegee Airmen:
In spite of adversity and limited opportunities, Blacks have played a significant role in U.S. military history over the past 300 years. They were denied military leadership roles and skilled training because many believed they lacked qualifications for combat duty.
Before 1940, Blacks were barred from flying for the U.S. military. Civil rights organizations and the Black press exerted pressure that resulted in the formation of an all-African-American pursuit squadron based in Tuskegee, Ala., in 1941. They became known as the “Tuskegee Airmen.”
“Tuskegee Airmen” refers to all who were involved in the so-called “Tuskegee Experience”, the Army Air Corps program to train Blacks to fly and maintain combat aircraft. The Tuskegee Airmen included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors and all the personnel who kept the planes in the air.
The Tuskegee Airmen overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II. They proved conclusively that Blacks could fly and maintain sophisticated combat aircraft.
The Tuskegee Airmen’s achievements, together with the men and women who supported them, paved the way for full integration of the U.S. military.
Ron Spriggs is an eight year U.S. Air Force veteran, a retired manager and advisory business planner from IBM. He also is an oral historian, lecturer and curator of the Tuskegee Airmen exhibit.
University Relations writer