( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) New Museum in Detroit, Michigan Honors the Famed Red Tails and Houses Youth Aviation Programs
ENSPIRE Contributor: Abby Ladner
On March 22, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt activated the 99th Fighter Squadron, the first group of Black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps that would come to be known as the Tuskegee Airmen. This year, March 22 marked the grand opening of the Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum in Detroit, Michigan. The opening of this museum celebrated the 80th anniversary of the Tuskegee Airmen.
The Tuskegee Airmen, also called the “Red Tails,” flew in World War II after being trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama. Previous to the formation of the Tuskegee Airmen, many people believe that the work of Black soldiers was inferior to that of white soldiers and that they could not succeed in battle. The Tuskegee Airmen proved them wrong; by the end of their last mission in 1945, they had flown over 15,000 individual sorties. They were also responsible for safely escorting and protecting bombers in combat, a task they did so well that someone rumored that they had never lost a bomber in over 200 escort missions. Recognizing the hard work and dedication of the Tuskegee Airmen was the first step towards ending racial segregation in the military and helped pave the way for racial integration in the United States.
The Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum is housed inside the Coleman A. Young Gallery at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Coleman A. Young is the first African American mayor of the city of Detroit and was also a second lieutenant in World War II, serving as navigator and bombardier in the Tuskegee Airmen. Besides displaying the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, the museum hosts an assortment of aviation education programs. These programs include the Aviation Career Education Academy, the Tuskegee Airmen Flight Academy, Aviation Career Week, and other programs designed to introduce young people to the world of aviation, such as Drone Club and Rocket Club.
The Ford Motor Company Fund made the grand opening of this museum possible. The Ford Fund, as the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, has been a longtime supporter of the Tuskegee Airmen. Besides supporting their new museum, Ford has also sponsored a reception to celebrate the Tuskegee Airmen receiving the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. They also honored the Red Tails with their 2019 documentary “Our Voices: Our Stories—The Tuskegee Airmen.” This year’s event results from a long relationship between the Ford Motor Company Fund and the Tuskegee Airmen.
The Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum celebrates the groundbreaking accomplishments of the famed Red Tails and provides the opportunity for youth to explore the field of aviation. To learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum and the men it honors, visit the website here or find them on Facebook. For more information on the Ford Motor Company Fund, visit the website here.