In today’s world, it’s easy to forget that racial equality has not always existed. In fact, various groups have had to fight for equal rights on many fronts throughout our history.

One such group was the Tuskegee Airmen. Before 1940, African Americans were not allowed to fly for the U.S. military. This was due to laws that allowed discrimination against African Americans. Discrimination means treating people differently for a certain reason, such as the color of their skin.

African Americans were discriminated against in many ways. For example, they didn’t have the same voting rights as others. Segregated (separate) schools, movie theaters and restaurants were other ways African Americans were discriminated against.

Some laws even required African Americans to sit at the back of public buses or give up their seats for white passengers. Things started to change when Rosa Parks took a stand against this type of discrimination.

With the help of civil rights organizations, African Americans were eventually given the chance to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps, which was the organization that preceded our modern Air Force. The “Tuskegee Airmen,” as they were called, were all those who were involved in the “Tuskegee Experiment.”

The “Tuskegee Experiment” was the name of the Army Air Corps program that trained African Americans to maintain and fly combat airplanes. The Tuskegee Airmen included pilots, navigators, mechanics, instructors and all the other personnel needed to keep the planes flying.

Despite racial discrimination, the Tuskegee Airmen became the first African American pilots to fly for the U.S. military. The Tuskegee Airmen were officially the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps. The 332nd Fighter Group was the sole operational unit, seeing action as bomber escorts on many successful missions throughout Europe during World War II.

The Tuskegee Airmen flew several different aircraft, but they were closely associated with one plane: the P-51 Mustang. The pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group painted the tails of their planes red, which led to their common nickname: the “Red Tails.”

The Tuskegee Airmen proved that African Americans could maintain and fly sophisticated combat aircraft. As a highly-respected fighter group, they helped pave the way for full integration throughout the U.S. military.

In 1998, President Clinton signed Public Law 105-355 to establish the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama. The museum and interpretive programs at the historic Moton Field complex commemorate the heroism of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.

 

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    • Great job, TJ! We’re glad you enjoyed today’s Wonder! We did, too! It was AWESOME to learn about the super brave Tuskegee Airmen! :-)

  1. OK, SO I KNOW WHO THEY ARE, THEY ARE LIKE PEOPLE THAT WERE IN WORLD WAR 2…. IS THAT RIGHT I HOPE SO…. OK THIS IS AWESOME I CANT WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW’S. I WILL HAVE A LOT OF FUN FIGURING THAT ONE OUT. :) :) :) :)

    • That is right, Sydney! We encourage you to re-explore today’s Wonder to learn more about these brave pilots of World War II! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • That’s a really great guess Mrs. Hall’s Class! We’ll have to check back in tomorrow to Wonderopolis and see if Katniss or Peeta make an appearance! :)

  2. We think tomorrows wonder is about Hunger Games the movie or maybe why we get hungry (I, stefani, am seeing it Friday!)

    • We think those are SUPER guesses about tomorrow’s Wonder, Stefani and Kd! We can’t wait to see if you guys are right! :-)

    • We’re glad you liked today’s Wonder, Emma! Thanks for letting us know and also for sharing what you think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about! :-)

  3. We liked learning about the Tuskegee Airmen. They were really brave. They fought in WWII. We are glad things aren’t like that today.

    • We think your comment ROCKS, Mrs. Bertz’s class! We really enjoyed WONDERing about the Tuskegee Airmen, too! They were super courageous in so many ways! :-)

  4. This was so cool because it was just a movie on the Tuskegee Airman. I think tomorrow’s is going to be on the hunger games.

    • We’re sure glad so many of our AWESOME Wonder Friends (like you!) are guessing what they think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about, Wonder Friend CT! Thanks for sharing your guess, too! :-)

    • We’re glad you had some background knowledge about the Tuskegee Airmen from watching the recent “Red Tails” movie about them, Aaron! We think that’s super COOL! :-)

  5. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black fighter pilots in U.S. history.

    We think tomorrow’s wonder of the day will be about either the movie, “Hungry Games,” or about people who are starving.

    • We really like your comment, Miss Kirsten’s Kindergarten GT Class! Thanks so much for sharing what you learned by exploring Wonderopolis today and also for sharing what you think tomorrow’s Wonder might be about! We think you ROCK! :-)

      • Hi Chyna! That is so cool! What a WONDERful family legacy that you have and a fun story to share! Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

  6. Hey!

    I didn’t know anything about it! But now I learned a whole lot! Thanks for teaching me more and more every day WONDERopolis! :)

    Hannah

    • Hello, Hannah! We hope you’re having an AWESOME day! It makes us super happy to know that you learn so much when you visit Wonderopolis! Woo, hoo! :-)

  7. Hi, I know I’m a pop star, but I want to know wonderopolis, why aren’t you putting videos up? The kiddos love them!!!!!!!! But, I just wanted to know why, but I still love this website!!!!! Thank you!!

    • Hello, Pop Star! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis today and leaving us this COOL comment! We’re really sorry to hear that you can’t see the videos for the Wonders of the Day. Some schools and school districts place a “block” on videos from websites, so they can protect their students. You might want to check with your teacher to ask if he or she might be able to help you see the videos on Wonderopolis. :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know you liked today’s Wonder of the Day®, David! We really appreciate your comment! :-)

  8. We were just learning about those today. I went on wonderopolis this morning and I couldn’t write. But I think that is so amazing!!!

    • Hello there, Mrs. Wilbanks! We’re so happy that you visited Wonderopolis again today so you could leave us a comment! Thanks for telling us you think this Wonder is amazing! :-)

  9. The “Tuskegee Experiment” was the name of the Army Air Corps program that trained African Americans to maintain and fly combat airplanes. The Tuskegee Airmen included pilots, navigators, mechanics, instructors and all the other personnel needed to keep the planes flying.

    • Thanks for sharing what you know about the Tuskegee Airmen, youngfreedom! We like it when our Wonder Friends (like you!) add something extra by sharing their background knowledge about a specific Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  10. I saw the movie “Red Tails”…..I didn’t think it was going to be that good, but it was….I almost cried!

    • Thanks so much for sharing that you saw the recent “Red Tails” movie about the Tuskegee Airmen, Jazzmine! We think that’s really cool! :-)

    • We’re REALLY glad you REALLY like learning new things in Wonderopolis, Claire! We do, too! Learning is fun when you WONDER about the world around you! :-)

  11. Thanks WONDEROPOLIS for this great video! I really appreciated it! It reminded me of the movie Red Tails, which I loved the movie.

    • Hi, Madalynn! Thank YOU for visiting Wonderopolis today and letting us know you liked the video for today’s Wonder! We think it’s super neat that so many of our Wonder Friends have seen the “Red Tails” movie! :-)

  12. Hey Wonderopolis! What’s up? Today’s Wonder of the day was quite interesting! It reminds me of George Washington Carver. :) :D

  13. Wow, I love wonderopolis it is the best website ever !!!!!! I cannot wait until the monkey wonder. Do you think you could do a wonder on dogs they are awesome!!!!
    :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

  14. W.O.W. I repeat W.O.W. How do they live knowing they served their country and they are still treated like normal blacks in the 1900’s! I heard of them but I never thought they were still treated as segregated people! I mean they were the pilots that served their country they are heroes in their family’s eyes. Why not to the whole U.S.? I always thought instead of being segregated back then but passed as a non-segregated American! What were the white people thinking! The Tuskegee airman that risked their lives to make people in America safe and sound. They should have treated them the same way we treat them now. As True heroes, and not just them, all African-Americans. It’s stupid just to judge people by their skin. Have they heard the saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s color”! They are the same people, the same people in America. I, for one, respect them. What about you? Please reply soon. I look forward to reading your response (I am a book nerd). Have a nice time. XD.Bye

    • We really appreciate your comment and your compassion for the way the Tuskegee Airmen were treated, Team McNeil 22! We like what you said about not judging a book by it’s “color.” That was super clever…and super RIGHT! Thanks for leaving us such an AMAZING comment and for being a WONDERful Wonder Friend! :-)

  15. The wonderopolis story about the Tuskegee Airmen was wonderful! I learned two new vocabulary words which were Tuskegee, and racial. I never knew that they were part of a Tuskegee Experiment, and that they were associated closely with the P-51 Mustang. I wonder why President Clinton signed a public law to establish the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama. I look forward to more woderopolis stories about history.

    • Hi, Gracie! Thanks for taking a guess about the next Wonder of the Day®! We think you are a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

  16. Wonderopolis is ABSOLUTLEY AMAZING!!!!!!!!!! I was wondering if you had a facebook, twitter, or instagram so I could stay updated with all your new wonders! :D

    • Absolutely, Texianna! Thanks to the Civil Rights Movement and the brave people who stood up for equal rights for everyone, African Americans serve in all branches of the armed forces, including the Commander in Chief! Thanks for Wondering with us today! :-)

    • Yes. It was a long time ago, Nathan. Yet, it is very important that we never forget their sacrifice. Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Who were the Tuskegee Airmen?
  • What is discrimination?
  • Why were the Tuskegee Airmen called the “Red Tails”?

Wonder Gallery

boy dressed as pilot_shutterstock_61481326Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to fly? If you’re wondering what it was like to fly in a World War II-era P-51C Mustang fighter, wonder no longer! Jump online to watch a video that will let you experience the P-51C up close.

To get a better idea of what things were like back in the days of the Tuskegee Airmen, check out this online photo gallery. It contains many images that will give you a better understanding and appreciation of these brave aviators.

If you want to test your skills as an airplane mechanic, cut out these pieces of an airplane that might have been flown by the Tuskegee Airmen. Paste them together to create a complete plane.

 

Still Wondering

How would you feel if your family was not allowed to order a meal at your favorite restaurant? Explore the civil rights movement by participating in the National Center for Family Literacy’s How Would You Feel? virtual sit-in and think about how it feels to be in someone else’s shoes.

Join this Thinkfinity Community discussion to share your creative ideas for how you might use this Wonder of the Day to inspire ongoing learning about civil rights when it’s not Black History Month.

 

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