The Tuskegee Airmen of Pittsburgh Oral History Project is an initiative of The Tuskegee Airmen Memorial of Greater Pittsburgh, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization.
Its mission is to capture, preserve, share, and celebrate the living voices and legendary story of the Tuskegee Airmen of the Greater Pittsburgh Region—those local African-Americans who overcame racial denial of the worst kind and contributed to the success of the Tuskegee Airmen program during WW II.Groundbreaking new research sponsored by the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial has demonstrated that the largest contingent of personnel of the Tuskegee Airmen program came from the Greater Pittsburgh Region. The essential question as to why is the Project’s over arching historical question.
The need for an oral history project to address this specific question is imperative, but such a project would also serve a wider purpose—to help showcase Pittsburgh’s significant contribution to African American aviation history. As The Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals contends, “For years, black aviation history, like most black experiences in America, has been relegated to the back pages of newspapers or to footnotes in books and journals . . . These contributions do exist, however, a very small portion have been formally chronicled and documented.”
The Tuskegee Airmen of Pittsburgh Oral History Project will not only contribute to our understanding of why so many Airmen came from Pittsburgh, but it will profoundly enhance our understanding of local African-American history as part of our shared national history and cultural heritage. As a result, we anticipate an emergent, exciting, and participatory interest in this little known chapter of Pittsburgh regional and African-American history.
Our first and immediate objective (phase I) is to capture and preserve the oral histories of the six (6) surviving Airmen from the Pittsburgh region and approximately nineteen (19) relatives, local residents, and renowned scholars and historians familiar with the local Tuskegee Airmen’s experience at home and abroad. Given the advanced ages of the Airmen, it is imperative that the Project record their first-hand accounts before it is too late.
Our second objective (phase II) is to create a professionally archived, digital multimedia collection of dedicated audio, video, and transcribed oral histories. This essential repository would be the definitive, primary resource for historical research, pedagogical efforts, and general public interest in the archive.
We believe that the successful completion of these two objectives is realistically achievable over the next 12 to 18 months. Our recordist and archival team is immediately available.
The cost of completing the recording and archival phases of The Tuskegee Airmen of Pittsburgh Oral History Project is substantial. Your generous, tax deductible contribution will give us the funding we need to fully implement this project.
Regis Bobonis, Sr. is the project executive. He is also the incorporator and senior project manager of The Tuskegee Airmen Memorial of Greater Pittsburgh, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to honoring the memory of all Pittsburgh area Tuskegee Airmen. He is also senior vice-president of the Daniel B. Matthews Historical Society of Sewickley, PA. Regis served as principle researcher for Fly Boys, an award winning WQED documentary about local Tuskegee Airmen. As a result of his historical research (which began in 1997), it is now known that the largest contingent of WW II Tuskegee Airmen came from the Greater Pittsburgh Region.Regis’ career in print and television journalism spans forty years. At age 13 he wrote a column for the Pittsburgh Courier, then the nation's largest black newspaper. He was the first African American journalist hired by the Pittsbugh Post-Gazette and WIIC-TV Channel 11. He was a television newsman, writer, and producer for WIIC-TV before being promoted to assistant director of public affairs. His on-air documentaries have received seven Golden Quill Awards.
Regis many other awards include the Governor’s Award in 1976, the 2006 Outstanding Achievement Award from the University of Pittsburgh and WQED-TV, a 2007 Legend in Journalism Broadcast Pioneer award from the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation, and Sewickley Herald's 2007 Citizen of the Year award. In 2010, The Homer S. Brown Law Association presented Regis with its prestigious Drum Major for Justice Award.
He served in the US Navy during WW II and graduated with a BA degree from Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh. Regis lives in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. He has two children and five grandchildren.
Kevin Farkas is the project’s recording coordinator and audiographer/videographer. He is founder and director of The Social Voice Project. He is the originator and producer of numerous creative audio and oral history projects, including the Veteran Voices Initiative, Life Story Minute, The First Responders Initiative, Voices of Change, Life Stories for Educators, and Sonic Essay | Pittsburgh. Kevin also created The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Project, an innovative multimedia partnership with The Veterans Breakfast Club and StartPoint Media, Inc.
Kevin co-founded The Tuskegee Airmen of Pittsburgh Oral History Project along with Regis Bobonis Sr. of the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial of Greater Pittsburgh, Inc. In 2011 he and The Social Voice Project were chosen to represent Pennsylvania as a featured partner with StoryCorps’ National Day of Listening—as heard on National Public Radio. Kevin has also received international recognition from Create Your Life Story, Australia’s leading life story advocacy organization.
After serving in the US Navy, Kevin hiked the Appalachian Trail, taught in universities throughout the US and the Navajo Nation, and he served as corporate director of training and certified IPC instructor in the electronics manufacturing industry. He graduated summa cum laude from New Mexico Highlands University, where he received an MA in English (Language, Rhetoric, and Composition). His research interests include sociolinguistics, ethnography of literacy, and critical pedagogy. Kevin lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Todd DePastino is the project's WW II historical consultant, lead interviewer, and videogapher. He is founder and executive director of the Veterans Breakfast Club, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to sharing veterans’ stories with the public. Over 1,500 people have participated in the Veterans Breakfast Club’s programs and activities over the past two years.
Todd is the author of Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front (W.W. Norton), which won the 2009 Anne M. Sperber Prize for the best biography of a major media figure and was a 2009 Eisner Award nominee. Todd is general editor of Fantagraphics Books’ complete Mauldin series, which so far includes the acclaimed Willie & Joe: The WWII Years (2008) and Willie & Joe: Back Home (2011). Todd is collaborating with Wind and Stars Production Group to write and co-produce a documentary film on Bill Mauldin to be aired on public television in 2014.
Todd’s previous books include Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America (University of Chicago Press, 2003), which won a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and The Road By Jack London (Rutgers University Press, 2006). He has a Ph.D. in American History from Yale University and teaches at Waynesburg University where in 2008 he won the Lucas-Hathaway Award for Teaching Excellence. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and two daughters.