As previews for the highly anticipated movie documenting the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, has gone viral (Red Tails), many have been instilled with immense pride seeing the byproduct of a black institution contribute to such a large cause. It is my hope that moviegoers use this momentum to share with the world not only the contributions made by fighter pilots in World War II, but the many essential milestones accomplished by graduates from Black colleges across the country.
Little do people realize that many of the Tuskegee airmen were not graduates of Just Tuskegee. In fact many Tuskegee airmen hailed from all over the country and were graduates of numerous black colleges across the United States. Men like Charles Johnson Jr., whose father was the famous president of Fisk University, Mohamed Shaik (Xavier University), Octave Rainey (West Virginia State) and Louis R. Purnell (Lincoln University). Many of the nations best and brightest African American minds were brought together in one place, to contribute. However, these were not the only ones to contribute to the war effort.
What often gets swept under the rug is the efforts of students and professors from schools like Florida A & M, Hampton Institute and Howard. Howard for example employed one of the greatest medical departments led by the world renowned Charles R. Drew. Without Howard for example, the United States military would have continued to lose thousands of lives without Drew’s revolutionary innovation of blood plasma.
This video “Negro Colleges in War Time” was a short propaganda film released in 1943 by the Office of War Information. The purpose of the video was to demonstrate how Black colleges are contributing to the war effort on the home front. Although little is mentioned in terms of the racial oppression still faced by African American at home, the video contains a wealth on information and adds to the discussion of how and why Black Colleges have been useful.