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Salt Lake Community College Honors U.S. Military’s African-American Pioneers

Salt Lake Community College honored some of the African American pioneers of the United States military’s five branches. The College launched a campaign during National Black History month dedicated to the stories of military personnel that don’t often get told.

“Every year, Salt Lake Community College focuses on an aspect of Black History that is educational and isn’t necessarily in the mainstream,” said Joy Tlou, SLCC public relations director. “In the past, we’ve put together profiles of poets, visual artists, musicians, and this year we decided to take a closer look at some of the lesser-known accomplishments African-Americans have made to our country’s military history.”

Perhaps the two most famous groups profiled by the College were The Tuskegee Airmen and Buffalo Soldiers. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators in the United States armed forces. These soldiers fought in the United States’ armed forces in World War II. Buffalo Soldiers were members of the all-black U.S. Cavalry and Infantry Regiments founded in 1866. They were also the first to serve as Park Rangers of U.S. National Parks. 

Other well known selections were Crispus Attucks and Carl Maxie Brashear. Attucks was the first casualty of the American Revolution. He was shot and killed in the Boston Massacre. Attucks was immortalized for his role in the event as “the first to defy, the first to die” in the revolution. Brasher was the first African-American to become a U.S. Navy Master Diver. On his way to becoming a Master Diver, Brashear graduated from the U.S. Navy Diving & Salvage School in 1954, the first African-American to attend and graduate from the Diving & Salvage School.

The College also recognized less-widely known individuals who have a remarkable place in U.S. military history. The College profiled Michael Augustine Healy was the first African-American to command a United States government military ship. Healy was a captain in the United States Revenue Cutter Service—forerunner of the United States Coast Guard.

A pair of ground-breaking Coast Guard aviators—Jeanine McIntosh Menze and La’Shanda Holmes—were also honored. Menze as the first African-American female aviator in the United States Coast Guard history, and Holmes as the USCG’s first female African-American helicopter pilot.

The College also honored former New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins. Though widely known for his distinguished political career, prior to his public service in political office, Dinkins enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and was among the 20,000 African-American soldiers who trained at Camp Montford Point between 1942 and 1949 before the Corps was fully integrated during the Korean War.

“These profiles have been a great way to stimulate conversation surrounding Black history at the College,” Tlou said. "The response from the community, the conversations on social media, and the interest from other institutions has been remarkable.”

In addition to the profiles, SLCC put on several events about Black history this year. A Black Student Voices discussion offered students and the College community to discuss campus issues regarding racial and cultural stereotypes and how to combat them.  A ‘Dance Across the Ages’ dance event offered a look back at various dance styles that have been popularized by the African-American community. SLCC’s celebration of Black History Month ended with an event that centered around the experiences of a black man in the Klu Klux Klan.

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