Omaha's Black Firefighter History Shared
Cathy Cook's grandfather's picture is on the wall at this exhibit with many more of Omaha's black firefighters.
"Basically I'm here to kind of just reminisce about my grandfather and here the stories, cause they never get old."
The portraits on the walls of Hot Shops Art Center show years of history. Omaha's first African American firefighters dating back to 1895.
Former Chief William Johnson shares his memories after spending 38 years on the Omaha Fire Department and Interim Chief twice before he retired.
In the 1960's he couldn't eat with the white firefighters, couldn't sleep in some firehouses and sometimes African Americans had different duties.
Johnson says Omaha has come a long way.
"I had an opportunity to move through the ranks, where these guys did not have that opportunity. I stood on the backs of these guys. That's the only way I got to the position that I got to."
All a part of celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Johnson believes the Omaha black firefighters took part in his movement.
"I'd like to get on the Omaha Fire Department."
Kolbey Wallington is a senior at UNO, he wants to be a firefighter.
"Just to get a better understanding of how Omaha has evolved over the years to see where the history is coming from, as far as black firefighters in the city."
Wallington wants to help people and maybe usher in a new era of history in the Omaha Fire Department.