African Americans in Aviation

These books at the Library explore the history of African Americans in aviation, with a special emphasis on the Tuskegee airmen who fought in World War II.

Related exhibit:
The Test: Tuskegee Airmen Project, Dec. 12, 2009 – Jan. 31, 2010

Blue Skies, Black Wings: African American Pioneers of Aviation
By Samuel L. Broadnax
Blue Skies, Black Wings recounts the history of African Americans in the skies from the very beginnings of manned flight. From Charles Wesley Peters, who flew his own plane in 1911, and Eugene Bullard, a black American pilot with the French in World War I, to the 1945 Freeman Field mutiny against segregationist policies in the Air Corps, Broadnax paints a vivid picture of the people who fought oppression to make the skies their own.

The Tuskegee Airmen book jacket

The Tuskegee Airmen
By Lynn M. Homan and Thomas Reilly
In 1941, Tuskegee, Alabama, was selected as the site of an important new development in military training. For the first time, black Americans were to be allowed to serve their country as members of the United States Army Air Corps. During its five-year history, Tuskegee Army Air Field was home to almost 1,000 African-American pilots. More than 10,000 black men and women served as their vital support personnel. Together, they filled the ranks of the 99th Fighter Squadron, the 332nd Fighter Group, and the 477th Bombardment Group. Their remarkable achievements at home and overseas destroyed stereotypes and helped to bring about the eventual integration of the United States military.

Black Wings: Courageous Stories of African Americans in Aviation and Space History
By Von Hardesty
Over the course of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, African Americans expanded their participation in both military and civilian aviation and space flight, from the early pioneers and barnstormers through the Tuskegee airmen to Shuttle astronauts. Featuring approximately two hundred historic and contemporary photographs and a lively narrative that spans eight decades of U.S. history, Black Wings offers a compelling overview of African Americans in aviation.

332nd Fighter Group: Tuskegee Airmen
By Chris Bucholtz
The USAAC's Tuskegee Experiment, designed to prove that African-Americans were not capable of flying combat aircraft, ironically resulted in the creation of one of the USAAF's elite units. This book reveals the true story of the unit that rose above discrimination to achieve elite status.

Black Nights: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen 
By Lynn M. Homan and Thomas Reilly
The authors use interviews and historical photographs to tell the story of those who served in the training program at Tuskegee Army Air Field from 1941 to 1946. This book includes many firsthand accounts – not just from pilots, but also from staff officers, mechanics, nurses, band members, and others.

The Tuskegee Airmen book jacket

The Tuskegee Airmen: The Men Who Changed a Nation
By Charles E. Francis
Originally published in 1955, this book tells the story of the African American officers and enlisted men who brought about the effective integration of the combat forces of the United States. The army has changed significantly since 1948 when President Truman issued Executive Order 9981, requiring equality of treatment and opportunity in the Armed Forces. This all started when black would-be pilots were called to train and to serve in segregated army support units of World War II.

A-Train: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman
By Charles W. Dryden
A-Train is the story of one of the black Americans who, during World War II, graduated from Tuskegee Army Flying School and served as a pilot in the 99th Pursuit Squadron. Charles W. Dryden has prepared an honest, fast-paced, balanced, vividly written, and very personal account of what it was like to be a black soldier, and specifically a pilot, during World War II and the Korean War.

Into the Tiger's Jaw: America's First Black Marine Aviator
By Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen with J. Alfred Phelps
When Frank Petersen enlisted in the Navy in 1950, he had no idea that he was embarking on a career that would cover almost forty years. The eighteen year old from Kansas was following in the footsteps of innumerable young men before him: join the Navy and see the world. Navy boot camp led to electronics school where he applied for the Navy's aviation cadet program. Against seemingly overwhelming odds, Seaman Apprentice Petersen was accepted. Upon graduation, he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, becoming the first African American pilot in the history of that elite organization. This was the first of many "firsts" in an exciting and momentous career that included combat in Korea and Vietnam.

The Tuskegee Airmen (DVD documentary)
Produced and directed by W. Drew Perkins and Bill Reifenberger
This documentary tells the story of an experiment – “to see if Blacks had the intellectual and physical ability to fly an aircraft in combat.” These pilots, trained in the “deep South,” became the Tuskegee Airmen, flying combat aircraft during World War II for their country. They had to battle on 2 fronts: the Axis powers in Europe and North Africa, and the racism at home.

Nightfighters (DVD documentary)
The 332nd Fighter group has a unique place in the annals of WWII air force fighter groups. The group was completely black and confounded the expectations and prejudices held by white Americans in the 1930's and 1940's, excelling as pilots and becoming a crack unit, accomplishing goals others couldn't.

For Kids

The Tuskegee Airmen book jacket

The Tuskegee Airmen: African-American Pilots of World War II
By Sarah E. De Capua
In a time when the U.S. military was segregated, the Tuskegee Airmen proved that blacks could fight as well and with as much courage as anyone. The Tuskegee Airmen were exceptional pilots during World War II, whose outstanding flying and performances paved the way for the integration of the military.

Red-Tail Angels: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II
By Patricia and Fredrick McKissack
Drawing on the pilot's own stories and photographs, Red-Tail Angels follows the Tuskegee airmen's exciting adventures from their beginning training exercises to their spectacular aerial dogfights. While these brave men returned home after the Allied victory with little or no fanfare, the McKissacks show that they have long been heroes in the African-American community and their successes paved the way for new generations of African-American aviators.

Black and White Airmen: Their True History
By John Fleischman
John Leahr and Herb Heilbrun became pilots during World War II, but they never met because the army was rigidly segregated – only in the air were black and white American fliers allowed to mix. Fifty years later, they met and discovered their lives had run almost side by side.

Descriptions provided by BookLetters.