By: Te’Asia Calhoun


The Tuskegee Airmen was the first military aviator fighter group made up entirely of African-Americans. They were educated at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, which was founded by Booker T. Washington. From 1940 – 1946, 996 pilots were trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field. They flew 15,000 individual sorties during World War II, earning more than 850 medals. The Tuskegee Airmen helped encourage the eventual integration of U.S. Armed Forces. Though the Tuskegee Airmen came home and faced the same systemic racism and prejudice as before, they fought the fight for equality in two ways:

  1. By literally fighting for the US in the war.
  2. Continuing to press forward for equal opportunity and treatment.


The Tuskegee Airmen had an impact on the step forward to racial integration of the military.  President Harry Truman issued an Executive Order 9981, desegregating the U.S. Armed Forces and mandating equality on July 26, 1948. In 2007, more than 300 of the original Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Many of the Tuskegee Airmen went on to have longer careers. The first Black general was George S. “Spanky” Roberts, who then became the first Black commander and eventually colonel. Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. became the first Black 4-star general in 1975. Other Tuskegee Airmen went on to work for NASA and in other high ranking capacities throughout prominent militaristic and private organizations.

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