Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
Backstory and Context
Before 1940, African Americans were barred from flying
for the U.S. military. However, Civil rights organization and the black
press challenged the government to expand
the role of African American in the military.
This resulted in the formation of Tuskegee Airmen.
Army Air Corp selected the Tuskegee Institute- a small black college in Alabama to host the “military experiment” the train the first African American pilots and support staff. The pilots would fly fighters and bombers. The airmen became known “Red Tails” because of the red painted on the tails of the P-47 and later P-51 fighter planes they flew. In May, 1940, the first students successfully completed the training program, prompting its expansion. By 1946, the program would train over 900 pilots.
For their achievements during the war and the struggles of racism they faced at home during and after the war, the Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush in 2007.
"Who Were They?" The Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum. Accessed January 23, 2015. http://www.tuskegeemuseum.org/who-were-they.