Think about it. It’s during the 1940s when Blacks are looked upon as dumb monkeys; if not intelligent enough to fight on the front lines, how could they possibly be able to fly plans, let alone be fighter pilots?
Black people were not considered to be intelligent enough to hold jobs such as doctors, lawyers, policemen, or any other position that required any kind of intelligence, including sports. They were considered to be just a shade above monkeys.
So when President Roosevelt proposed not just an all Black combat group, but fighter pilots people thought he was crazy, and most Whites felt it was just something to shut up the Black activists. Of course Blacks could not fly planes. Blacks would be a total disaster as fighter pilots. At least this was the belief of most Whites and many Blacks. But a small group of very special men surprised the world by proving them all wrong.
Recently the largest memorial for these men was installed at the Sewickley cemetery. More than 100 men from western Pennsylvania served as Tuskegee Airmen, which was the largest number of Blacks coming from any area in the country. That says a lot about the western Pa. region and the quality of men coming from it.
Could we do that today? How many of our kids in the 21st century are thinking about being pilots, let alone, fighter pilots?
Regis Bobonis, who fought to get this done, deserves a lot of kudos for his efforts. He didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk. He did what he set out to do, and did it in grand fashion. This will be an accomplishment that will last for years to come; something for all people to be proud of, especially Blacks.
My suggestion to every school in the area, both Black and White, but especially Black, take your students to see this monument. Our Black males really need to see it, from the elementary level through college, so that they can see what Black men accomplished when the odds were much more against them than today.
There are two great movies out on the Tuskegee Airmen. One is entitled “The Tuskegee Airmen” which was an HBO movie in 1995 starring Laurence Fishbourne, Allen Payne, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Cuba Gooding Jr., Andre Braugher, and Courtney Vance. And recently George Lucas created “Red Tails” which starred Cuba Gooding Jr., Terence Howard and several newcomers. The first movie dealt with the actual training and what they had to go through to get an opportunity to fight. The second movie dealt with what they did once given the chance to put their lives on the line and fight for their country.
I would highly recommend picking these movies up at the library and watch them in order. And if you can find a place to purchase them they should be in every Black home, especially those with children. There’s nothing more motivational then real history.
Oh, while I’m speaking of movies, “Fly Boys” is also a good movie to watch. It’s much older, but in it is probably the first Black fighter pilot. He fought in World War I with a small group of Americans who fought for the French before the U.S. entered the war. Once America entered the war, he was not allowed to fly because Blacks were not allowed to be fighter pilots even though he had a sparkling record as a combat pilot with France before the U.S. entered the war.
Also if you watch “The Tuskegee Airmen” the character Courtney Vance played, Lt. Glenn, was the only man with experience as a fighter pilot among the trainers, which were all White except him. He flew for another country before the U. S. entered World War II. Once again the U.S. did not allow Blacks to be fighter pilots.
Congratulations go out to Bobonis and all the others involved in this venture, both Black and White, who were determined to make this memorial a reality. It’s still not too late to contribute. Contact Rich Dieter at firstname.lastname@example.org to donate or learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen.
(Ulish Carter is the managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier. He can be reach at email@example.com)
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