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Published 05/24/2019 

Editorial | by Nehemiah Frank, founder & editor-in-chief 

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black military aviators in the United States Armed Forces.

Before they became the black American heroes of the skies, these highly-revered, handsome, and courageous brothas were students at the historically black college of Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama.

Hence, it was black college professors that nurtured, empowered, and produced America’s first black fearless aerial knights of the skies during World War II.

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Before the world’s second war, there had been no black combat pilots in the US military.

Legalized racism in America kept blacks from serving as pilots in the US Army Air Corps — the US Air Force.

Jim Crow was the law of the land in the US’ military, even during times of war.

Centuries of racism and anti-black propaganda in mainstream media had borne a stigma that blacks weren’t intelligent enough to operate sophisticated machines such as an aircraft.

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The rejection, however, of blacks — who desired and had the skill set to serve as military pilots during World War I, sparked a civil rights movement within the American military that lasted for two decades. 

It was the Tuskegee Airmen, who cracked that seemingly impossible glass ceiling of white supremacy in the American military for black men and black women.

2nd Lt. Kayla Freeman, the first black female pilot in the Alabama National Guard, stands at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Fort Rucker, Alabama, June 21, 2018, after her graduation from the aviation school. (U.S. Army/1st Lt. Jermaine Thurston)

In 2018, 2nd Lt. Kayla Freeman, a black woman, graduated from Fort Rucker’s Army Aviation School.

Ironically, Lt. Freeman is also a Tuskegee University alum.

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Hence, black educators matter.

And black, culturally nurturing and affirming environments are often the highest producers of black excellence.

Lt. Freeman received her aviator wings by retired Col. Christine Knighton.

Knighton became the second black woman to serve in the US Department of Defense as an aviator.

Because of history’s powerful, unapologetically-Black American trailblazers, black boys, and black girls can now be inspired to imagine what they too could become someday.

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Therefore this Memorial Day weekend, we say thank you to the many black men and black women who broke the chains of racism in the American military, paving the way for the rest us Black, Brown, Red people, and White women, too, who desire to serve within any capacity in the US Armed Forces.

Thank You!

Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times and a descendant of two families that survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Although his publication’s store and newsroom...