Thanks to George Lucas’s release of Red Tails, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, students and teachers have a wonderful new resource for celebrating Black History Month.
To help teachers provide the historical context for the Red Tails film, we’ve gathered a range of online resources, starting with Elk Grove’s own 2008 videoconference with Tuskegee Airman Alexander Jefferson. Jefferson was one of 32 Tuskegee Airman shot down over Germany – and the only one to have written about the African-American experience behind barbed wired in a German prison camp: Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free. From NPR’s 2006 interview, you can get an idea of his energy, his resiliency, and his commitment to fighting for social justice.
In May of 2008, students at Edward Harris Middle School and Monterey Trail High School connected live with Alexander Jefferson via videoconferencing for an hour-long, highly interactive discussion. SECC (Sacramento Educational Cable Commission) recorded and uploaded the session so that teachers across the region and nation could bring a “living voice” into their history lessons.
Building on Alexander Jefferson’s story, students in Martin Billings 11th grade U.S. History class (Monterey Trail HS) have added to Elk Grove’s Tuskegee Airman oral histories collection with their 2009 interview with George Porter: A Tuskegee Airman Remembers. George Porter served as an aircraft mechanic for the Tuskegee division. Before, during, and after the war, Porter’s story is one of resiliency and a determination not to let anyone or anything stop him from doing his best. During the classroom visit, in addition to the Tuskegee experiences, he shares his first-hand encounters with racism, segregation, and living through decades of Jim Crow laws.
With the opening of “Red Tails,” we thought teachers might be searching for a range of primary sources to provide students with the history and complexities of the war years – and to ignite a passion for learning more about the Tuskegee Airmen and our nation’s pre-Civil Rights era. In addition to the above interviews, we recommend checking out the following resources:
- Legends of Tuskegee - From our National Park Services, this site provides the historical context for the Tuskegee Airmen.
- Tuskegee Airmen – Teaching activities for grades 4-8.
- Celebrate Freedom – Tuskekee Airmen 60th Anniversary – Includes a daughter’s interview.
- Black History WEB – A Teacher’s Guide to the Tuskegee Airmen Online – Provides links to a wide range of resources, including letters, quotes, video, and games.
- Wings for This Man – A history teacher’s comprehensive blog post builds on the 1945 film narrated by Ronald Reagan.
- Tuskegee Airmen – A Proud Heritage – A teacher’s guide from the Museum of Aviation.
- Red Tails Trailer – According to YouTube descriptor, this is “the official” George Lucas trailer.
If you have resources to share or activities you’ll be doing to commemorate the challenges and accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen, please join the discussion by leaving a comment.