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Tuskegee Airmen Archive Announced

Establishment of Tuskegee Airmen Archive Announced at UCR Event

The UCR Libraries and private foundation team up to establish the Tuskegee Airmen Western Region Archive at UCR

(February 9, 2005)

Tuskegee Airmen Logo

Tuskegee Airmen Logo

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Feb. 9, 2005 — On Saturday, Feb. 5, nearly 200 people gathered to honor the grit and heroism of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II and learned of the efforts to establish the Tuskegee Airmen Western Region Archive at the University of California, Riverside.

To make a contribution to the collection or for information about how to help support it, call Library Administration at (951) 827-3221.

University Librarian Ruth Jackson made the announcement at a dinner and celebration at the UC Riverside Commons. The UCR Libraries and the Smith Family/Concerned Citizens Cultural Foundation for Minority Affairs, Education of Women, and Black History Research (SCMEB) are co-sponsoring the initiative. Air Force Col. Ralph Smith (Ret.) is CEO of the SCMEB Foundation and vice president of the Western Region Tuskegee Airmen Inc.

Approximately 34 Tuskegee Airmen and airwomen attended the gala, some traveling from as far away as the Washington, DC area, including the Tuskegee Airmen Executive Director Robert Higginbotham and other executive officers from the national organization.

The purpose of the airmen archive will be to collect and preserve as part of a national effort, the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, who broke the race barrier for African Americans in military aviation. They advanced race relations through their integration of the WWII-era U.S. Army Air Forces and compiled a combat record unsurpassed in military history. The airmen, trained as fighter pilots, flew combat missions as bomber escorts in the European theater and never lost a bomber to enemy aircraft. Altogether 992 pilots graduated from the Tuskegee airfield courses; they flew 1,578 missions and 15,533 sorties, destroyed 261 enemy aircraft, and won over 850 medals.

The archive will call special attention, not only to the airmen’s military history, but also their many contributions to economic development, race relations, politics, business, medicine, military science, education, and various other fields. The University and the Foundation will collaborate with the airmen and airwomen to collect their personnel letters, photographs, petitions, books, documentation of their careers before, during, and after military service, books by and about the Tuskegee Airmen, diaries, records of regional and local chapters, posters and other items.

The archive will be available to researchers, educators, students, and others in the public to help tell the story of these valiant men and women. The airmen archive will form the cornerstone of a larger initiative to establish UCR as an archive of African American history and culture in the Western states.
The UC Riverside Libraries has a special role to play in this regard, said Jackson, “In that research libraries represent natural repositories for collecting, preserving, and making accessible the histories of the ethnic individuals and groups who have contributed so much to the fabric of our society.”

“It is especially appropriate for UC Riverside to undertake this role, because we are the most diverse campus within the UC system and one of the most diverse nationally, and because we value excellence in diversity as one of our strengths,” she added.

According to Smith, much of the history of the airmen remains scattered among the surviving airmen. He believes it would be an invaluable contribution for the Western states chapter members to begin to deposit their papers, photographs, and memorabilia in an educational setting such as UCR to preserve more of the unique history of the chapters and their members’ contributions to education, American society, and the continuing struggle to improve race relations.

Smith believes that to continue the research and recording of the true story of the airmen, the long-term preservation of photographs, papers, and memorabilia of the airmen is critical. Smith adds that it is little known, for example, that there were also Tuskegee airwomen who contributed much to the success of the airmen program at the Tuskegee Institute.

Creating a repository of African American history will add depth and detail to the dramatic story of the Tuskegee Airman and of African American contributions to aviation, which have been captured in books, news accounts, documentary films and in the highly-successful commercial film, released in 1996 by HBO. Screenwriter Trey Ellis came to UCR to talk about the making of the film, which starred Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Malcolm-Jamal Warner among other distinguished actors.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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