By Jim Melwert

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — One of the last surviving members of the black American World War II aviators known as the “Tuskegee Airmen” spoke today to students at Penn Charter School, in the East Falls section of Philadelphia.

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Dr. Eugene Richardson, now 90, shared his story with students and faculty, describing how he first became interested in flying as a youngster in Philadelphia when he was just five years old.

He told about his training with the Tuskegee Airmen and their role in breaking down stereotypes of the time — including a report from the Army War College that claimed blacks were lower on the scale of human evolution.

“This is the United States Army War College!” Richardson noted.  “You’d think war colleges have informed, intelligent people, but they were still going around spouting that kind of nonsense.”

He says he hopes his story of the Tuskegee Airmen will show students that they can accomplish anything, regardless of what people tell them.

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“We proved to them that all that (racial stereotyping) was just a big lie — just a lot of nonsense,” Richardson recalls.

Stephanie Judson, associate head at Penn Charter, says it’s an honor and a privilege to having an original Tuskegee airman visit the school — and an excellent history lesson for the kids.

“We’re getting farther and farther from World War II,” she said today.  “It’s not so much a reality to our students unless they can see people and talk with people firsthand.”

 

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