Black History Month
Published on 02/25/2021 by APMEX
Black History Month is recognized annually to observe the histories, stories and voices of Black people. February shines a spotlight on contributions to our history made by Black artists, educators, leaders and more. From the U.S. Mint to the Royal Canadian Mint, trailblazers in the Black community can be found on many collectible coins and medals.
Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
The final coin in the U.S. Mint's America the Beautiful Quarters® Program features the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. This Silver coin honors the Alabama location that memorializes the work and accomplishments of roughly 1,000 pilots and more than 15,000 support staff who fought for racial equality in the U.S. and abroad.
The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site was initially constructed in 1941 in Tuskegee, Alabama, as the Moton Field flight training base for the pioneering pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen. The field was named after the Tuskegee Institute principal Robert Russa Moton, who died the previous year. Before 1940, African Americans were banned from flying for the U.S. military. However, Civil Rights organizations exerted pressure which eventually resulted in forming an all African American pursuit squadron that became known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
Moton Field was the only primary flight facility for African American pilot candidates in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. Built between 1940 and 1942 with funding from the Julius Rosenwald Fund, the Tuskegee Institute's Moton Field was assigned officers from the Army Air Corps to oversee training. Though Moton field was closed in 1946 and a portion deeded to the city of Tuskegee as the municipal airport in 1972, the National Historic Site was established on November 6, 1998. Since October 10, 2008, visitors have been able to tour a restored Hanger One.
A Modern Liberty
The U.S. Mint has a history of displaying patriotic themes to celebrate American symbols of freedom. The 2017 and 2018 American Liberty coins depict a young Black woman wearing a crown of stars in a captivating, modern interpretation of Liberty.
2017 marked the 225th Anniversary of the U.S. Mint. To mark this momentous occasion, they introduced the 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold coin featuring a modern rendition of Lady Liberty. The American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold coin was struck in .9999 fine Gold and was the first high relief coin with a Proof finish ever minted by the United States. These coins were minted at West Point and depicted a profile of Liberty wearing a crown of stars. In 2018, a coin was created to complement the 1/10 oz Gold coin issued in 2017 to commemorate the United States Mint's 225th Anniversary. Struck in .9999 fine Gold, it features the same modern design featured on the 2017 coin. These coins were minted at West Point and have a denomination of $10.
The newest personification of Lady Liberty was said by the U.S. Mint to be "a modern rendition of this iconic figure that embodies the ideals of freedom and equality first set forth in our Declaration of Independence."
The Black Loyalists
A recent release by the Royal Canadian Mint features the armorial bearings of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society.
In 1775, Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, offered freedom to any slave who would fight on the side of the British Crown. More than 300 slaves sought their freedom and formed The Ethiopian Regiment behind British Lines. Black Soldiers fought under the impression that they were securing freedom for themselves and all enslaved Black people.
The British also extended their offer of freedom to include grants of land to the former slaves who agreed to fight on their behalf once the rebellion was defeated. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 slaves had taken refuge behind British Lines.
Though several Black soldiers were left behind as the British retreated, other Black Loyalists were resettled in Florida, the West Indies and Canada. More than 3,500 Black Loyalists fled after the British lost the American Revolutionary War.
"The story of the Black Loyalists — how they served the British in the war in exchange for the promise of freedom in peacetime, and how they traveled to Nova Scotia only to endure hardships of slavery, indentured servitude, landlessness and hunger — is one of the great stories of Canadian history," said Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes.
The Royal Canadian Mint has memorialized the hardships the Black Loyalists endured in this limited mintage fine Silver coin. Their triumphs and tribulations are a fundamental part of Canada's history.