The 99th Pursuit Squadron was established (January 16, 1941) as a unit comprised totally of African Americans. This was also around the same time the Tuskegee Training Program was established, a program so successful that it ended up being combined with the 332nd Fighter Group only a year later. During their time together the 99th took part in over 500 missions in this year, making a mark in history and paving the way for others.
Debbie Allen was born (January 16, 1950) and over the years made a name for herself as a multitalented entertainer. She is most known for her roles in Fame and a Different World. Looking at her triumphs behind the camera, she was also instrumental in the production of the award winning Amistad.
On this day (January 16, 1966) Harold R. Perry became only the second Black Roman Catholic bishop in U.S. history. Although it doesn’t seem like a big deal to some, religious crossovers that blur some of the stereotypes of race are impactful, especially in the Catholic community.
Lucius D. Amerson became the first Black sheriff in the 20th century South (January 16, 1967) and went on to be a pioneer for several other high ranking positions for African Americans. He was officially sworn in at Tuskegee, Alabama.
NASA names three Black astronauts (January 16, 1978) for the first time in their history. This is considered a big step for the organization, and considering how selective the process is may have been one of the biggest legacies in science history. The men chosen were Major. Frederick D. Gregory, Major. Guion S. Bluford and Dr. Ronald McNair. Most notable of that group is Bluford, an astronaut that went on several missions and got wrapped up in the debate of ‘first black man in outer space’. The debate is still going strong today as people within the community draw their lines in the sand.