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Nation's first Black military pilots one step closer to getting legal holiday in Florida

The Tuskegee Airmen fought during World War II.
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The Tuskegee Airmen fought during World War II.

Under a bill that’s in its third and final committee in the Florida Senate, the sacrifices of the Tuskegee Airmen would be remembered every year on a special holiday in Florida.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first Black military pilots in the United States armed forces.

The bill, SB 1312, would create the Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day, a legal holiday that would be celebrated the fourth Thursday in March every year in Florida.

Retired Air Force Lt. Colonel Toby Hubbard, president of Central Florida's General Daniel “Chappie” James Tuskegee Airmen chapter, says it’s crucial the day be marked.

Hubbard said young people especially have much to learn from the legacy of the first Black military pilots, who broke down barriers to serving in our nation’s Air Force.

“So, don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do. Because here’s a story of individuals who did what folks said they couldn’t do. They not only survived this. They excelled at it,” said Hubbard.

Belinda Morgan-Sterling, with the same chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen in Central Florida said the bill is part of a national push to get more states to recognize the sacrifice of these brave men and women.

States like Virginia already celebrate the day.

“Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated, has implemented the initiative for all states to have a Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day on an annual basis. So we have several states that have already implemented to perpetuity Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day,” said Morgan-Sterling.

A companion bill, HB 1227 has passed two committees in the House, and is on its way to getting a second reading by the full House.

The bipartisan support for the bill comes as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has banned AP African American History in the state and a new set of statewide African American history standards have come under fire for language that equates slavery with learning a new set of skills.

Learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen here.

Danielle Prieur is WMFE's education reporter.
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