Sept. 9, 2007 — Two Virgin Islanders were members of the famed Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, and thanks to a book donation from a local organization, students can read all about it.
We wanted to take a role in promoting literacy, said Carmen Heywood, member of the local Tuskegee Airmen Inc. group. So, as part of World Literacy Day, the group purchased "Lieutenant Colonel Charles W. Dryden: Tuskegee Airman" by Carol Marsh, "Black Knights: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen" and "The Tuskegee Airmen Story," both written by Lynn Homan and Thomas Reilly.
The books were distributed to all public schools, libraries and the University of the Virgin Islands. Each version is age appropriate to elementary, middle and upper school students.
On Friday, Heywood and her sister Cenita presented the books to the Alfredo Andrews Elementary School and the St. Croix Career and Technical Education Center libraries.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black pilots in the U.S. Army Air Corps, the precursor to the Air Force, and were among the most celebrated squadrons of the war. Herbert Hosea Heywood and Henry E. Rohlsen, both from St. Croix, graduated as 2nd Lieutenants in the flight school class of 44-C-SE on March 12, 1944. See "Black History Spotlight: Herbert Hosea Heywood".
The Heywood sisters began the local Tuskegee Airmen group to keep the memory of their father, Herbert, alive and to promote cultural pride. The group has a book club where they read and discuss books of cultural significance.
Knowing that two airmen were Virgin Islanders gives even more relevance to this donation, said Alfredo Andrews Principal Darrel Richards. We are extremely grateful. Richards said the books will be required reading for Black History Month.
At the Education Center, Assistant Principal Denston Bacchus, said although the school concentrates on vocational skills, the donation will help students to be well rounded.
Any book of cultural significance, we want our teachers to recommend, Bacchus said. He noted the book will be the first culturally significant novel dealing with aviation in the library. It will definitely enhance our collection.
The Heywoods and other family members have been promoting literacy on St. Croix for many years. In 1993 they started the Red Brick Reading Club in D. Hamilton Jackson Terrace housing community where the family grew up.
International Literacy Day, celebrated annually on Sept. 8, was originally designated in 1965 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1965.
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