U.S. Military Base Celebrates Black History Month
A salute of African-American history came to Croughton on 22nd February when the 501st Combat Support Wing African-American Heritage Committee hosted their Fallen Stars Ball at the Croughton Crown. The formal ball was part of a series of events set up to observe Black History Month, and event organiser Andrea Brown says they wanted the ball in order “to dress up in honour of black history month, dance, and have a good time.”
The 501st is part of the United States Air Force, and serves to “support U.S. and NATO operations across the United Kingdom and Norway” by providing “world-class combat support to enable intelligence, communications and global strike operations in support of US and NATO objectives worldwide.”
This Combat Support Wing is comprised of three units: the 421st Air Base Group (ABG) based at RAF Menwith Hill, the 422nd ABG headquartered at RAF Croughton and the 423rd ABG set in RAF Alconbury. The Croughton installation, which held the event on their base, is 20 miles north of Oxford and was built in 1938 to provide extra training space for the RAF. During WWII the base was a night flight training facility and emergency airfield. It has served the U.S. military since 1951.
Black History Month, also known as National African American History Month, is a yearly celebration of African American achievement and the central role those achievements played in U.S. history. The tribute began as Negro History Week, an event created by historian Carter G. Woodson and Minister Jesse E. Moorland, and set during the second week of February to commemorate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
By the late 1960s many college campuses in the states had turned the event into a month of festivities. Gerald R. Ford was the first president to recognize Black History Month in 1976, and every president since has done the same. Its establishment in the UK began in 1987 and is generally attributed to Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo and the Greater London Council.
Brown used flyers, social media and word of mouth to promote the ball, which featured dinner, dancing, live music, raffle prizes and a guest who spoke about the American civil rights movement and how it related to military life and careers. Brown says that “the togetherness of the crowd” made the event memorable, and mentioned that starting early when you plan is the key to success.
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