CHICAGO (CBS) — Chauncey Spencer II drives the nation’s highways to tell the stories of African Americans in flight – and on Wednesday, his traveling museum made a stop in Chicago.
CBS 2’s Jim Williams was there to see it on Wednesday.READ MORE: Police Officer Shot; 15-Year-Old Wounded, 1 Killed In South Shore
Coast to coast, Spencer, of California, hauls a treasure trove of history.
“I’ve traveled approximately 10,000 miles – to 25 major cities this year,” he said.
The first stop on Wednesday was Dunbar Vocational Career Academy, at 3000 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. in Bronzeville.
Spencer is the founder of the African Americans in Aviation Traveling Museum.
“African Americans played a major role in aviation,” he said.
He travels to share the stories of Black pilots and their determination to take to the skies against overwhelming obstacles.
“As we know that at one time, they said that Blacks couldn’t fly,” Spencer said. “But Blacks didn’t believe that, and we fly.”
Chicago plays a starring role in the narrative.
“Chicago is the home of African American aviation,” Spencer said. “It started right here.”READ MORE: Car Crashes Into Near North Diner
Did you know the first airport built and owned by African Americans was in south suburban Robbins, or the first training program for Black pilots during World War II was at 87th Street and Harlem Avenue?
In addition to those facts, Spencer taught us about Chicago’s own Bessie Coleman.
“Bessie learned how to speak French and went to France, and in 1921, she came back with a pilot’s license – making her the first African American female with a pilot’s license,” Spencer said.
Spencer’s own father, also named Chauncey Spencer, helped convince U.S. Sen. Harry Truman that Black aviators could serve their country in conflict. That led to the famed Tuskegee Airmen.
“The Tuskegee Airmen are the first African American fighter pilots in the United States Army Air Corps.
As president, Truman would later desegregate the armed services.
Spencer found a captive audience at Dunbar, with students who were using a simulator to learn to fly.
“We need to connect the young people today with their history,” said Umberto Ricco of the Coffey School of Aeronautics. “They need to carry their legacy forward.”
Indeed, Spencer offers a legacy on wheels. Williams asked him what he wanted young people to take away from his presentation.MORE NEWS: Woman Killed In Jefferson Park Hit-And-Run
“I want them to understand that great things start with a dream – and dreams, with determination and self-driven thought, create reality,” Spencer said.