CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) was proud to host a discussion and film screening today with Beverly Dunjill, a member of the renowned Tuskegee Airmen of World War II fame who also is a former employee of the human rights agency. Dunjill participated in Q & A with agency staffers and the public and introduced a screening of the documentary film, “The Tuskegee Airmen.”
“Beverly Dunjill, like all of his brethren in the Tuskegee Airmen, is a true American hero and it was an honor to be joined by him today,” said IDHR Director Rocco Claps. “The Department of Human Rights is proud that we can call him one of our own. He defended our nation in time of war at great personal risk, and then in peacetime, he devoted himself to the cause of human rights. To have him join us today and share his experiences is tremendously inspiring to all of us.”
Dunjill, who flew more than 100 combat missions as a Tuskegee Airman, first came to work for the state in 1974 with IDHR’s predecessor agency, the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC). That agency was merged with others to form IDHR in 1980, where Dunjill worked until 1986.
“I enjoyed the work I did for the FEPC, and when I think about it, it continued the work of the Tuskegee Airmen,” Dunjill told the audience. “The Tuskegee Airmen did not start the work of anti-discrimination. It had started before us. We did not initiate it, but we continued the work of anti-discrimination and anti-segregation for everyone around the globe, and I think we did a pretty good job. When I came to work for the FEPC, I continued the work I had done before with the Airmen.”
He dreamed of being a pilot growing up as a youth in Chicago and received training as a high school student at the Coffey School of Aeronautics in Oak Lawn, before enlisting in the war effort and pursuing his dream as part of what was formally known as the 332nd Fighter Group.
The Tuskegee Airmen, as they became known worldwide, were the first group of black pilots to ever fly for the U.S. military. Overcoming prejudice and discrimination, this elite group played an integral role in the Allied victory in World War II. The unit flew more than 15,000 combat sorties for more than 1500 missions and by the end of the war had earned more than 900 citations, including 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses. Today, the Tuskegee Airmen continue to serve our country by providing youth with education opportunities.
The administration of Governor Pat Quinn recently honored the Tuskegee Airmen by renaming a stretch of Interstate 57 on the South Side of Chicago as the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Trail.
For more information about IDHR, go to: http://www2.illinois.gov/dhr/Pages/default.aspx