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Leslie Outerbridge, a co-founder of the Afro American Firefighter League, now called the African American and Paramedic League, celebrates a birthday today. The retired fireman helped bring about diversity to the Chicago Fire Department and has captured a lot of Black firefighter history in his own writings and research.

Outerbridge was born in 1936 and raised primarily in the Cabrini Green housing projects. A high school dropout, Outerbridge entered the U.S. Air Force and then drove a taxi cab before he joined the Chicago Fire Department in 1961. Rising in rank swiftly, Outerbridge connected with other Black firemen Jim Wimbush and Wesley Thompson to form the AAFL. The group rallied other Black firefighters to their cause, discovering that the CFD poorly funded their stations in comparison to stations in white neighborhoods.

The AAFL also unleashed a report that unveiled the CFD’s record of discrimination in 1973 and that same year, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the city. In 1977, then-Mayor Richard J. Daley signed “consent decree” which increased the number of Black firefighters significantly.

Outerbridge, who retired in 1995, has worked as a model and photographer in the wake of his firefighter career, along with writing a memoir about his experiences with the CFD. He has also offered lectures on the subject as well.

Leslie Outerbridge, a co-founder of the Afro American Firefighter League, now called the African American and Paramedic League, celebrates a birthday today. The retired fireman helped bring about diversity to the Chicago Fire Department and has captured a lot of Black firefighter history in his own writings and research.

Outerbridge was born in 1936 and raised primarily in the Cabrini Green housing projects. A high school dropout, Outerbridge entered the U.S. Air Force and then drove a taxi cab before he joined the Chicago Fire Department in 1961. Rising in rank swiftly, Outerbridge connected with other Black firemen Jim Wimbush and Wesley Thompson to form the AAFL. The group rallied other Black firefighters to their cause, discovering that the CFD poorly funded their stations in comparison to stations in white neighborhoods.

The AAFL also unleashed a report that unveiled the CFD’s record of discrimination in 1973 and that same year, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the city. In 1977, then-Mayor Richard J. Daley signed “consent decree” which increased the number of Black firefighters significantly.

Outerbridge, who retired in 1995, has worked as a model and photographer in the wake of his firefighter career, along with writing a memoir about his experiences with the CFD. He has also offered lectures on the subject as well.

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