February is Black History Month. In honor of that I thought we could take a moment to discuss the famous group of African American Airmen who are being immortalized on film at a theater near you: The Tuskegee Airmen. Theirs is a bittersweet history. Bitter in that the tale contains horrifiying accounts of the bigotry that infested national policies during this time of American history. Sweet because it is a testament of courage, strength and triumph.
During WWI, African American men had applied for positions as aerial observers and been rejected strictly on the basis of race. After the end of the war, two decades of intense advocacy began, spearheaded by African American men who wished to train to become pilots. Prestigious men such as Walter White, A. Philip Randolph and Judge William H. Hastie involved themselves in the cause. In 1939 their efforts proved successful and Congress passed Appropriations Bill Public Law 18. The bill contained a clause allocating some funds for the training of African American Pilots. Due to the segregation rules which regulated army life, the money was used to pay civilian flight schools willing to accept these students. The army then did a mighty dance in order to accommodate these new pilots within its own bigoted and segregated ranks.