The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
In 1941, the Army Air Corps awarded a contract to Tuskegee Institute to operate a primary flight school at Moton Field. Consequently, Tuskegee Institute was one of a very few American institutions - and the only African American institution - to own, develop, and control facilities for military flight instruction.
Moton Field was the only primary flight training facility for African American pilot candidates in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. Thus, the facility symbolizes the entrance of African American pilots into the Army Air Corps and the singular role of Tuskegee Institute in providing economic and educational resources to make that entry possible, although on a segregated basis.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American soldiers to successfully complete their training and enter the Army Air Corps . Almost 1000 aviators were produced as America's first African American military pilots. In addition, more than 10,000 military and civilian African American men and women served in a variety of support roles.
Although military leaders were hesitant to use the Tuskegee Airmen in combat, the airmen eventually saw considerable action in North Africa and Europe. Acceptance from Army Air Forces units came slowly, but their courageous and, in many cases, heroic performance earned them increased combat opportunities and respect.
The success of the Tuskegee Airmen proved to the American public that African Americans, when given the opportunity, could become effective military leaders and pilots. Modeled on the professionalism of Chief Alfred Anderson, Benjamin O. Davis, and Daniel "Chappie" James, their performance helped pave the way for desegregation of the military, beginning with President Harry S Truman's Executive Order 9981 in 1948. It also helped set the stage for civil rights advocates to continue the struggle to end racial discrimination during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Consequently, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen constitutes a powerful and seminal metaphor for the struggle of African American freedom in America.