A Tuskegee hero has once again made it on the back of a United States coin.
The Black World War II fighter pilots who completed 15,000 sorties in 1,500 missions throughout the Mediterranean and even sank an enemy destroyer, have joined fellow hometown heroes Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver as faces of commemorative U.S. currency. (Booker T. Washington was the first free Black person featured on legal tender when his image was placed on the silver half dollar coin in 1946).
The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site Quarter set will go on sale Feb. 19. It’s the 56th and final release of the America the Beautiful Quarters Program that features designs capturing parks and sites of national significance. The first commemorative set was released in 2010.
While the front (heads) of the quarter features George Washington, its reverse (tails) shows a Tuskegee Airman pilot suiting up with an image of the Moton Field control tower in the background. Behind him, two P-51 Mustangs fly overhead. The inscription “THEY FOUGHT TWO WARS” arcs above his head in reference to 1942’s Double V campaign championed by Black journalists, members of the military and citizens. The campaign was grounded in the irony that Black soldiers were engaged in a war on two fronts: fighting fascism abroad and racism at home.
After World War I, the U.S. began investing in aviation training for civilians, but segregation laws excluded African American men from enrolling in these pilot training programs. After the NAACP filed suit against the U.S. government in 1941 it was forced to open the training program to Black pilots. Six historically Black colleges and universities were selected to begin training and Tuskegee was soon identified as the highest performing among the group. That year, the university was selected as the official site for the first Black training facility for an Army Air Corp unit. It was designated a national historic site in 1998.
Tuskegee Airmen quarter set sales start at 11 a.m. Centrao on February 19. Each set costs $11.50.
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