The City Council voted unanimously on Nov. 14 to rename a section of South Road in Jamaica for the Tuskegee Airmen, a segregated unit of Army Air Corps pilots who rose above prejudice and military roadblocks to become one of the elite fighter squadrons in World War II.
South Road between Merrick Boulevard and Remington Street will become Tuskegee Airmen Way.
The bill, sponsored by Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), honors the pilots, ground crew and personnel who at first were not permitted to serve in combat roles, as Pentagon brass considered black men incapable of operating sophisticated, high-performance fighter planes.
Proving their mettle, they became desired escorts among all-white bomber crews, and feared opponents among pilots of Germany’s Luftwaffe.
“The Tuskegee Airmen have fought with honor and bravery, overcoming adversity in service to a country that once thought them incapable of flying,” Wills said in a statement issued by his office. “Let these 19 blocks serve as a long-lasting reminder of greatness for our young people and inspire us all to achieve.”
Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said they did far more than help win the war.
“The Tuskegee Airmen have played an extraordinary part in America’s history and the civil rights movement,” Comrie said. “After helping America and its allies defeat Nazi Germany, they established themselves back home by becoming entrepreneurs, giving back to their communities, and breaking down racial barriers ... [W]e are helping to ensure future generations of Americans will remember their dedication, and look to them as examples of heroism in the face of extraordinary obstacles.”
Airman Dabney Montgomery, who attended the hearings, was honored.
“Tomorrow, you will see a beautiful street, the Broadway of Queens, named after a few brave men who did it when they said it could not be done,” he said..