Florida lawmakers push to make Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day a legal holiday
A bill to honor the Tuskegee Airmen is moving forward in Florida. State Senator Victor Torres (D-Kissimmee) proposed the legislation that would designate 'Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day' a legal holiday in Florida.
The measure (SB 1312) was approved by a Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security committee Monday.
“The Tuskegee airmen have received numerous awards and medals for their combat bravery and service over the years," Torres said to the committee. "Many notable Floridians have received honors for their contributions over the last decade.”
The Tuskegee Airmen, America's first Black military aviators, patrolled the skies of Europe during the Second World War. Segregated units learned to fly planes at an all-black flying school in Tuskegee, Alabama. But there were also thousands who trained in Florida, becoming full time pilots, navigators, and bombers; in the 1940s.
The purpose of the bill would be to honor the legacy for their military service and their contributions towards Black civil rights. Sen. Torres said that the airmen have been honored in the past.
“A similar bill was approved in prior years, but it only designated the commemorative day for that year. This bill will establish this day going forward every year in perpetuity.”
Florida’s Tuskegee Airmen broke many racial barriers during the 1940s, but also faced discrimination. Daniel Keel, a Florida native, and one of the original members of the Tuskegee airmen, spoke at a public symposium in Polk City back in 2012.
“One, we could not eat in the officers’ mess," said Keel. "We could not go in the officers’ club. If we go to the base theater, we couldn’t sit in the officers’ section. If we go to town, we had to ride in the back of the bus.”
Stories from Tuskegee airmen continue to be heard across the country in novels and films. The bill designates the fourth Thursday in March as Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day. The holiday, however, will not be a paid day off.
SB 1312 has two more stops before it takes the Senate floor. A similar bill has been filed in the House.