Tuskegee Airmen and the Great Western Migration, 1940-1970 Exhibit

Tuskegee Airmen and the Great Western Migration, 1940-1970 Exhibit
February 1 – 28, 2018
Geisel Library, main floor, west wing

A group of Tuskegee Airmen in uniform standing in front of a military plan

In honor of Black History Month, the UC San Diego Library is hosting the Tuskegee Airmen and the Great Western Migration, 1940-1970 Exhibit.  The story of the Tuskegee Airmen who settled in the western United States often gets lost in the telling of the larger Tuskegee Airmen narrative. The western migration is one of the most pivotal moments in African American history as people sought out better economic opportunities and an escape from racialized violence in the south.

African Americans left the southern United States in record numbers during the Second Great Migration, a period spanning over thirty years between World War II through the emergence of the Black Power Movement in the late 1960s to the early 1970s.  An estimated five million African Americans left the south between the early 1940s to the late 1970s.  This massive movement of African Americans is estimated to have been more than twice the size of the first Great Migration that occurred during the early 20th Century through World War I. It reshaped the social, political, cultural, and economic future of not only African Americans, but also the United States

The Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military aviators in the US Military, were an important part of this migration story.  Their western migration was similar to many other African American service members who left the south in significant numbers after their military service during the three decades.  They moved west for economic opportunities in the growing defense industry, military bases, and other industries that had recently opened up opportunities for African Americans.  They also moved west seeking an escape from the brutality of southern racism.

The exhibit will cover three main time periods from 1940-1970:

  • World War II
  • The Western Migration of African Americans
  • The Emergence of the Black Middle Class in the Western United States

This traveling exhibit is on loan from the UC Riverside Library. The Special Collections & Archives houses the notable Tuskegee Airmen Collections.

To learn more, check out the following resources from the UC San Diego Library’s collections:




The Kansas City Style: A Marriage of Blues & Jazz

International jazz legend Jeannie Cheatham presents a treatise on Kansas City Blues, featuring live music, engaging storytelling, and recently rediscovered video. Jeannie will perform on piano with a jazz trio, underscoring the readings of special guests.

Jeannie’s autobiography Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On, reveals a life and career with all the great musicians of the past sixty years, from the Big Bands of Cab Calloway (“Minnie the Moocher”), Grover Mitchell (Count Basie band leader), Bill Tole (“New York, New York”), Big Mama Thornton (“Hound Dog”) to George Lewis (MacArthur “Genius” award winner). Jeannie Cheatham played piano for them all. She was trained in both the classical tradition and in the famous Kansas City jazz tradition by some of its greatest musicians: Pete Johnson, Jay McShann and Count Basie. Jeannie and her husband Jimmy Cheatham revived the Kansas City style and, with their Sweet Baby Blues Band, toured the world. Join Jeannie and surprise guests at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 12, 2015 in the Seuss Room of Geisel Library.

This free Black History Month event is sponsored by the UC San Diego Library, the African & African-American Studies Resource Center and the UC San Diego Department of Music.

Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On is available through online retailers.
During the month of February, an exhibit about the Kansas City style will be on view at Geisel West, 1st floor. Jimmy Cheatham’s trombone will be on display, accompanied by an essay relaying the significance of the instrument, written by Jeannie Cheatham.
Contact: Scott Paulson, spaulson@ucsd.edu or 858-822-5758.

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