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Traveling museum pays homage to Black pioneers of aviation

'I’ve covered 42 states, 47 major cities and I’ve educated more than 250,000 kids'
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Posted at 6:23 PM, Mar 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-28 00:31:22-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A traveling museum in Kansas City, Missouri, at the Black Archives of Mid-America pays homage to the Black pioneers of aviation.

“For the last five years, I’ve traveled over 63,000 miles. I’ve covered 42 states, 47 major cities and I’ve educated more than 250,000 kids,” said Chauncey Spencer II, curator and creator.

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Spencer said the history of Black Americans is often left out in history books.

Instead of fighting school curricula, he decided to put a classroom on wheels and travel to reveal the untold stories of Black men in aviation.

For Spencer, the museum is also an opportunity to keep his dad’s legacy alive.

“Every year, I’ve gotten some accolade for my father,” he said. “I think he would be very proud of me. It makes me cry sometimes just to know that I’ve done these things and I talk about him.”

Chauncey Spencer I, or “Woogie,” always set his sights on the skies. According to his son, he took one look at a plane flying by and was bitten by the aviation bug.


Woogie’s determination to fly dates back to his 16th birthday. He was denied flying instruction at the Lynchburg, Virginia, airport because of the color of his skin.

“My father said the manager didn’t even look up. They said, 'We don’t teach the colored to fly, they don’t have the intelligence," Spencer said.

Sixteen years later, Woogie traveled to Chicago where he learned to fly under the guidance of Cornelius Coffey.

They created the National Airmen’s Association of America, a 10-city tour to encourage historically Black colleges in the South to get involved in aviation.

During that trip, he met with Harry S. Truman, then serving in the U.S. Senate, at Howard University in Washington D.C.

“As my father would say, 'You can get down and get dirty and then you become the same as they are. You have to ride above them.' And the Tuskegee Airmen, not only did they fly above that, they acted above that,” said Spencer II.

He is in Kansas City this week at the request of Robert Gray, who hosted a Medal of Honor Day ceremony at the Black Archives of Mid-America.

Gray is the President of Medal of Honor Recipient PFC James Foundation, which works to keep the legacy of Willy F. James, Jr. alive. James was one of seven Blacks to receive the Medal of Honor for service in World War II.

The award was delayed decades because of bias and discrimination.

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“We’re on the same mission to make sure that we educate the future generations about the past,” Gray said. “How they fought for freedom on both fronts — freedom from segregation and freedom for WWII.”