Exhibit on Tuskegee Airmen at the heart of an aviation center | Entertainment

PITTSBURGH–The Tuskegee Airmen flew more than 1,500 combat missions in World War II, destroyed more than 250 enemy aircraft, earned a raft of Distinguished Flying Crosses and Bronze Stars, yet were subject to discrimination both within the armed forces and a 1940s American society where Jim Crow laws still held sway in many places.

The accomplishments of this group of Black pilots, navigators, mechanics and support personnel is at the heart of a traveling exhibit, “Black Wings: American Dreams of Flight,” from the Smithsonian Institution that will be starting a residency in June that will last into 2024 at the Hosanna House’s Sherwood Event Center on the eastern edge of Pittsburgh. The exhibit accompanies a new Center for Aviation Technology and Training, which is designed to get young people interested in aviation and aeronautics. A collaboration with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, it has hands-on and interactive components like a cockpit flight trainer and an airport play table.

The newly renovated space was unveiled last week and will be open to the larger public in June.

Hosanna House is a health and human services center located in a onetime school building in Wilkinsburg. Leon Hayes III, its founding chief executive officer, pointed out last week that the number of Black people who pursued careers in aeronautics is painfully small – less than 3% of all employees in the field. Hayes hopes that seeing artifacts that highlight the storied achievements of the Tuskegee Airmen and sitting in a flight simulator will help nudge some black young people toward aviation careers.

“What we wanted to do is bring the history of aviation to young people,” Hayes explained. He said the Tuskegee Airmen exhibit “showcases the history, influence, tenacity, strength and accomplishments of African Americans who served our country in the field of aeronautics.

In a news release, Jane Werner, executive director of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, said, “We are thrilled to help create experiences that are both innovative and inclusive. Our work with Hosanna House Inc., allows children and families to explore hands-on learning in informal settings, and build skills that help them make an impact in the Pittsburgh region and beyond.”

A pilot’s flight suit and gear, a propellor and nose cone and autographed items are among the relics included in the Tuskegee Airmen exhibit.

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