To celebrate Black History Month, a pop-up exhibit featuring Tuskegee Airman Samuel L. Washington is on view in the Pacific Hotel lobby. Before 1940, African Americans were barred from flying for the U.S. military. In 1941, thanks to pressure from the Civil Rights movement and the Black Press, an all African American pursuit squadron was created, based in Tuskegee, Alabama. The members of the squadron became known as the Tuskegee Airmen, one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II, that paved the way for the full integration of the U.S. military.
Samuel L. Washington was appointed as flight officer after graduating from the Tuskegee program on June 27, 1944. Based in Italy, Washington and his fellow airmen provided air support for numerous bomber missions over Germany. After retiring from military service, Lieutenant Washington settled in San Jose with his wife Mary. The decorated war veteran passed away in 1981, but in 2006 was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Washington’s flight gear and other personal belongings were donated by his family to History San Jose, and will be on display at History Park through March.