At 21, Alexander Jeffersonâ??s world was literally black and white.
â??You couldnâ??t buy a house in certain neighborhoods. Certain restaurants in Detroit, downtown Detroit, there were certain restaurants that a black person could not eat in,â?? says Jefferson.
He wanted to escape Detroitâ??s culture of discrimination
â??Everything is not fair,â?? says Jefferson.
His escape coming in the form of draft notice from the U.S. Army.
The Detroit native earning his pilot wings in 1943, assigned to the U.S. Army Air Corp in Tuskegee, Alabama.
â??You donâ??t think about the future,â?? says Jefferson.
While flying his red-tailed plane over southern France during the height of World War II, Jeffersonâ??s plane was shot down in enemy territory---eventually being captured by The Nazis.
â??Why as a Tuskegee Airmen would I survive,â?? says Jefferson. â??Heck no.â??
Jefferson surviving the hell that was a Nazi work camp for nine months.
â??Never thought about getting to this stage. 92, Iâ??m one of the last survivors,â?? recalls Jefferson.
But the fight was not over.
â??Fortunate to come back and to keep my own sanity fighting segregation and discrimination in the 50â??s and 60â??s,â?? says Jefferson.
His next fight was just beginning.
â??Fortunate enough to become a member of the civil rights movement,â?? says Jefferson.
For Jefferson, the struggle rages on.
â??I got news for you, you donâ??t stop. Why stop? Why be content,â?? questions Jefferson.
Which is why heâ??s retelling his story to students across Michigan with the traveling Red Tails exhibit.
â??We get to them with the five or six principlesâ??rise above, believe in yourself,â?? says Jefferson.
The Purple Heart honoree is passing these principles on to the next generation.
â??We hope to give them the background to succeed in their lives because theyâ??re going to hit obstacles,â?? says Jefferson.
History is what makes you move. If you donâ??t know what your history is, how can you know where youâ??re going,â?? questions MSG. Alphonso King, a Vietnam Veteran.
Jefferson is hoping his living legacy inspires students to rise above.
â??Iâ??m still one of the 35-40, still yak-yakking, still trying to tell the story of the legacy---survivor,â?? says Jefferson.
Students in the Hemlock and Saginaw school districts will see the traveling exhibit during the next two weeks.
The traveling exhibit will be free and open to the public, this Saturday at the Harry Browne Airport in Saginaw
A P-51c Mustang, similar to what the Tuskegee Airmen flew, will also be on display.