THE BLOG

The Only African American Firefighter Museum in the U.S.

03/09/2011 08:23 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I was amazed when I found out about the oldest and only African American Firefighter Museum in the country, which is right in Los Angeles!

The museum preserves and shares the great accomplishments of African American firefighters throughout the decades. It opened on December 13, 1997 to acknowledge and praise the service of the first 100 years of service by African American Firefighters.

The history and the memory of those who helped start the museum are also preserved. It is something that is so striking and breathtaking that it truly makes you appreciate the past, the present, and the future to come.

According to its website, in 2002, the Los Angeles Times found that the history of the museum actually started before 1897 with a man named Sam Haskins. Haskins was listed as the first Los Angles Fireman of African decent when he was hired in 1892. Sadly, Haskins was killed in 1895 while responding to a fire.

The lives and impact of African American firefighters throughout time is shown so gracefully along the walls and within the atmosphere of the museum.

As you walk throughout the museum, you will notice all of the photos and firefighting equipment from a previous day in time. You will probably feel the great emotion and even the great passion for providing service that the African American men had.

For example, the first floor contains vintage fire apparatus, stories and pictures of pioneering African American Los Angeles Firefighters. Additionally, the museum also has a gallery that has pictures, artifacts and other memorabilia of African American Firefighters, Captains, Chief Officers and historical women fire service professionals from around the country. There is even a memorial tribute to all of the firefighters that perished during 9/11.

Yet there is also another capturing part of the museum.

Visitors will most likely meet 92-year-old retired firefighter Arnett Hartsfield. Hartsfield is so enthusiastic and lively. It is quite surprising to meet someone who has given so much to society throughout his entire life and yet still keeps giving.

Those who work at the museum say Hartsfield is the most cherished volunteer. In fact, visitors especially cherish him for the amazing stories of courage he tells them.

According to the museum's website, Hartsfield was a Los Angeles firefighter during the 1940s and 50's. He led the integration of the Los Angeles Fire Department. As a graduate of USC's law school, he and his fellow firemen known as the Stentorians, the NAACP and the local community, were instrumental in successfully integrating the LAFD.

He still continues to tell the stories of the men that endured a horrific fight today.

His stories and this museum especially touched me as I reflected on the changing history of the United States. From wars to segregation to equal rights for all, the people of our country, especially minorities, have dealt with many issues in their lifetime.

In my opinion, this museum is the epitome of how one's courage, strength, and intellect can make a brighter future for all. We each just have to continue to give back to our communities and inspire generations to come to make a difference in the world for the better. I just wonder why there are not more museums like it throughout the United States.