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Welcome to the Office of Continuing Education's
Tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen

In 1940 a "White's Only" sign not only kept Blacks out of rest rooms and restaurants it also
applied to cockpits of America's military aircraft. But under intense social and political pressure the Army established experimental aviation training units for Blacks at Tuskegee, Alabama. The Army wanted to put to rest at last the question of Blacks' ability to operate sophisticated equipment, fight courageously in battle, or assume positions of authority. The goal of these aviators then was to prove that black men could fly and fight as well as any other American. But their first battle was to fight for the most basic human rights of dignity and respect. As the leader of the Tuskegee Airmen, Col. Benjamin O Davis, Jr. said " With the enemy I knew that I only had to die once. In the Army Air Corps and in life I had to live with the day to day suffering of degradation and racism."

Nearly 1000 Black pilots received segregated training at Tuskegee, Alabama while over 10,000 Black maintenance personnel trained under similar conditions at Chanute field in Illinois. Over 550 trained as bomber pilots but the war ended before they were deployed overseas. The remaining 445 fighter pilots and their crews operated as segregated combat units in Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa flying in raids such as Anzio Beach and the Ploesti Oilfields. With their aircraft tails painted bright red to identify themselves the “Red Tails” carried the hopes and dreams of their thirteen million African American countrymen into battle...

The Office of Continuing Education at the University of Illinois invites the public to relive the past of five of the Patch worn by Tuskegee Airmen of the 99th Fighter Squadron during World War IIoriginal Tuskegee Airmen through personal stories, quotes, news clippings, photographs, and videos. Bev Dunjil, Robert Martin, Quentin Smith, Rob Strickland and Melvin Knazze visited the University of Illinois to share what it was like to be a Tuskegee Airman. Presented as an online exhibition, the material collectively captures what life was like for these revolutionary men.



Office of Continuing Education
302 East John Street, Suite 202
Champaign IL 61820
217-333-1462 or 877-455-2687