“When you can do the common things of the world in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.” – George Washington Carver
To celebrate Black History Month, the founders of the organization chose a theme of inclusion. They wanted to celebrate not just people, but groups and events. With that theme in mind, we wanted to take a closer look at the service of a very special group of individuals who raised awareness about civil rights through their own self-less service. The Tuskegee Airmen served as the first African American airmen in the United States military. Their service and struggle for inclusion as free men fighting for a country of unequal rights highlights a number of Great Ideas. With this in mind, it might be worth a look at their service through the eyes of (but not limited to): change, courage, education, honor and liberty. This group of like-minded individuals embraced a dream and forged the path, which was not an easy one. Their cause was great and so was their sacrifice. Help us in celebrating Black History Month by learning a little bit about the Tuskegee Airmen.
Of the many groups to raise social awareness of civil rights, the Tuskegee Airmen fought two battles simultaneously. While African Americans had served in various military opportunities for the United States, up until 1940, they had never served as airmen. Due to mounting civil rights pressures, the United States formed the “Tuskegee experiment”, an all African American air squadron trained in Tuskegee, Alabama. This group of men (pilots, navigators, bombadiers, maintenance support, instructors and personnel) paved the way for the inclusion of African American men in the U.S. military. Between 1941 and 1945, over 1,000 African Americans were trained at Tuskegee. In addition to the rigorous military training, the classroom training included meteorology, navigation and instruments. They then received advanced training at The Advanced Flying School, a segregated airbase built during the war for this purpose. Five airmen graduated from the first class in March 1942.
Racial tensions made transition overseas much trickier than the segregated training base. However, these airmen overcame amazing obstacles in their pursuit of excellence. The Tuskegee Fighter Squad was identified by bright red tail markings to identify friend from foe. Due to this identifier, they became known as the Red-Tail Squadron. Their success at accompanying bomber escorts deep into German territories earned them high respect.
Since World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen have earned a number of distinctions. President Clinton approved a law to establish the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field, to commemorate the remarkable service of these airmen. In addition, in 2007, they were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal. America continues to honor their service and their importance in World War II and to the civil rights movement.
For more information, visit The Legends of Tuskegee on the National Park Service website: http://www.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/tuskegee/intro.htm