New U.S. coin to celebrate African-American airmen

African-American airmen’s contributions to World War II will be immortalized on a new U.S. coin to be released in 2021.

Worth 25 cents and known as a “quarter,” the coin will pay homage to the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, located at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, and today part of the U.S. National Park Service. It’s where the U.S. military trained about 1,000 African-American men to become World War II fighter pilots.

From 1940 to 1946, the U.S. Army Air Corps, then the aviation arm of the United States military, used a flight program at the Tuskegee Institute to train African-American men to become military pilots. The institute, renamed Tuskegee University, is a historically black university founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington, an educator, author, presidential adviser and former slave.

Prior to the program, racism in the segregated armed forces blocked African Americans from flying U.S. military aircraft.

The program helped the airmen battle segregation and prejudice to become one of the war’s most respected fighting groups. Following the war, President Harry S. Truman signed an executive order in 1948 to integrate the U.S. armed forces.

The coin comes from the U.S. Mint, a division of the U.S. Treasury. The Mint will unveil the final design in summer 2020 before it is released to the public. The secretary of the treasury chooses the final design.

The coin is the 56th quarter and final installment of the Mint’s America the Beautiful Quarters Program, an initiative that honors national parks and other national historic sites (see sidebar).

Close-up view of two quarters (U.S. Mint)
The Frederick Douglass National Historical Site quarter, with Douglass on the reverse side and George Washington on the front (U.S. Mint)

The quarter is among the Mint’s latest efforts to honor African Americans:

  • A quarter featuring African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, a former slave, statesman and activist.
  • A special gold coin that personified Lady Liberty as an African-American woman.
  • A redesign of the $20 bill with Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave who escorted other slaves to freedom, which is slated for a 2020 release.

This article was written by freelance writer Lenore T. Adkins.

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 (U.S. Mint)