A highlight of my recent trip to Denver for the NWP‘s Urban Sites Conference was meeting Alexander Jefferson. He was on the same flight from Sacto to Denver. I spotted him at the baggage pickup zone. It probably seemed like an idiotic question, but seeing an African-American gentleman wearing a Tuskegee Airman jacket, I had to ask, “Pardon me, but were you a Tuskegee Airman?” As I stood with him for a few minutes, listening to his story, I vowed to think of ways to make his lived experiences accessible to other teachers – and their students. He was actually on his way to present to students in one of Denver’s public schools (saw his picture a day later in the Denver Times as he stood surrounded by young students).
Alex was one of 32 Tuskegee Airman to be shot down over Germany, and the only one to have written about the African-American experience behind barbed wired in a German prison camp: Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free. From NPR’s recent interview, you can get an idea of his energy, his resiliency, and his commitment to fighting for social justice.
I hope within this school year to arrange a videoconference with Alex Jefferson (from Wayne State University) and teachers in my district’s Teaching American History grant – and to stream the event so that a nation-wide audience can learn from this extraordinary American.