In 1941, A. Phillip Randolph, president of the all-black Sleeping Car Porters Union and an early civil rights leader, along with other black activists, planned a march on Washington to demand an end to discrimination in war industries. We were not yet in the war but President Franklin Roosevelt believed it was only a matter of time. For fear that a massive demonstration by African-Americans would hinder the war effort, FDR agreed to meet with Randolph and other black leaders to convince them to call off the march. Among the demands Randolph 's committee made was the creation of a unit of black aviators. Since pilots were the new knights of modern warfare and airplanes were cutting edge technology, if the experiment was a success it would be difficult to argue in the future that blacks were somehow intellectually inferior. The result was the creation of what became to be known as the Tuskegee Airmen. During the war, the Tuskegee Airmen flew twin engine bombers and the P-51 Mustang fighter, often called the “Cadillac of the Air”. The pilots painted their tails red so they became known as the “Redtails”. They were famous for never loosing a bomber they escorted over Europe to enemy fighters. One gentleman who was a waist gunner on a B-17, said that they begged for the Redtails as escorts as they would accompany the bombers all the way to the target and back. One of their commanders during the War was Benjamin Davis, only the third African-American believed to have graduated from West Point and later became the first Major-General in the Air Force.

Written by Chambers County Historical Mission member John Britt
February 29, 2008

Related Link - Chambers County Historical Commission


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