Eastern New Mexico University’s African-American Affairs honored Black history by bringing in Steve Frank, an Army Veteran, to come and talk about the Tuskegee Airmen on Feb. 2. They made a real difference in World War II. Even though there was segregation and racism in their midst and the cards were stacked heavily against them, they did not let it stop them from succeeding.
Frank mentioned the lack of role models for the African-American community. With most black folks not being able to apply for roles of leadership, the lack of movement caused lots of African-Americans to turn to the military.
Back then, 10 percent of the military was the African-American community. Out of those 380,000 people, most of them did not serve in combat. Only 600 were Black officers in the military. This was not a high percentage, but at least they were moving up. Back home, they were not allotted that right.
“The Tuskegee Airmen played a huge role in the civil rights movement.” Frank stated during the presentation. He mentioned the movie “Red Tails” (released in 2012). Although they did make a big difference in winning the war, the movie and most stories told about the Tuskegee Airmen left out some critical details in the aftermath of the war when everyone came home.
The airmen not only did big things in the sky, but they came home and changed their communities and the country.
In 1948, as a result of the success of the Tuskegee Airmen Experiment, the United States Airforce partnered with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to abolish segregation in the air force. There was no real reason to keep them out since they had proven they could do the same work at the same caliber of the white men.
Many of the Tuskegee Airmen went on to get law degrees and do big things for their communities and the country. Frank stated that two went on to become members of the NAACP, one went on to work closely with Martin Luther King Jr. and the other went on to become a freedom rider. A young man also defended Malcolm X and the chief engineer of the World Trade Center was also a part of the Tuskegee Airmen.
A lot of the men and women from the Tuskegee Airmen won small victories by becoming the members of their communities in ways that would not have happened otherwise, such as becoming electricians or postmen.
Frank did an amazing job of opening the eyes of the students who attended and this event was a great start to remembering black history.