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Museum for Black Fire Fighter erected in Chicago

Senegal Mabry Special to the AMN | 6/20/2013, 11:03 a.m.

Last week the son of the FDNY Chief Salvatore J. Cassano resigned from his position in the fire department for racially insensitive slurs, including referring to African American as "schwoogs" and "schwoogies," and comments in tweets that he posted.

While New York City recovers from other recent outbursts of racism like this one from members of the Fire Department of New York, Chicago's firefighters are headed in the opposite direction.

Chicago has plans to transform a vacant firehouse into a museum for African American firefighters.

The project was originially slated to transform an old racially intolerant firehouse and the choice was viewed as poetic justice for some after a video of engine 100, housed at the old fire house that they are attempting to transform, surfaced which showed white firefighters drinking and using multiple racial slurs.

But, "The building was so old and there was so much work to be done....We were strapped trying to bring the place up to standard," said museum founder Morris Davis. So instead Davis is planning to build the museum at Engine 61 -- a vacant firehouse at 5349 S.

The museum, located in Bronzeville (5349 S.) will be complete with photographs, displays, artifacts and memorabilia that honor contributions made by Black Firefighters.

Some of the highlights include:

  • Black firefighters inventing the sliding pole.
  • The first Black fireman, William Watkins' assignment to engine 21 in 1873.
  • A black firefighter from Engine 21 leaping into a wagon drawn by a team of runaway horses to rescue a young boy in 1888
  • Captain Grant Chaney's promotion to be Chicago's first black battalion chief.
  • The overnight integration of Black firefighters into previously segregated White fire houses in 1965.