Red Tails - Summary

In Red Tails—based on a true story of African-American WWII pilots (played, among others, by Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Terrence Howard)—learn the history of black-flying in America.

Before World War II, almost no African Americans have flown an airplane as the pilot-in-command. In 1941, Eleanor Roosevelt (then First Lady) makes history when she flies in a small plane with an African-American pilot.

A flying school for blacks has opened in Tuskegee Alabama, and Eleanor’s flight gives her husband, President Roosevelt, a lot to consider.  For example: Shouldn't African Americans have the same rights as whites to fight for their country during WWII?  Shouldn't they have the right to be pilots?

Long before FDR becomes President, Bessie Coleman (an African-American from Chicago) dreams of flying. No flight school in the U.S. allows her (or any person of color) to take flying lessons, so she moves to France to pursue her goal.

By 1921, Bessie has her pilot’s license and travels throughout America demonstrating her skills as a stunt pilot. She hopes to raise enough money to open a flying school for African Americans but dies during a flight in 1926. Even after her death, she is a role model for black pilots.

Before and during WWII, all branches of the U.S. military services are segregated. The government allows African Americans to join the Army and Navy, but they work in menial jobs (since they are thought to be less capable than white soldiers).

Eventually President Roosevelt signs Executive Order 8802. This allows people of color to serve in the military as pilots. Graduates of the Tuskegee Institute, in Alabama, form the 99th Army Air Corps Pursuit Squadron and soon prove their expertise in air battles against the Germans in the skies over Italy.

The "Red Tails," as they become known because the tails of their planes are red, are fierce protectors of American bombing missions.  Serving as escorts on those bomb runs, Red-Tail crews shoot-down many German planes.

Do you have what it takes to be a Red-Tail pilot? Learn about eleven of the pilots and see photos of them with their planes. Discover the differences between American bombers and German bombers. Find out about another secret that takes place at Tuskegee involving medical experiments. And ... listen to African-American pilots who tell us they were fighting for more than just their country during WWII.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jan 01, 2012

Updated Last Revision: Nov 09, 2016

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"Red Tails" AwesomeStories.com. Jan 01, 2012. Jan 25, 2020.
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