(Atlanta, GA; November 13, 2021) — Sixteen (16) students from the Eastlake Male Youth Initiative visited Tuskegee, Alabama as part of our Recapturing the Spirit of Excellence tour. The visit was a way for students to learn and reflect on the legacy and success of the Tuskegee Airmen, Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver.
Students built their knowledge of Tuskegee’s history through two site visits:
Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site — the birthplace of the famous World War II black fighter pilots
Tuskegee Institute Historic Site, including Tuskegee University, founded by Booker T. Washington; and the George Washington Carver Museum, which pays homage to the pioneer of America's most ubiquitous crop — the peanut.
“Any time you can show students what you’re talking about, it’s more impactful,” said Reverend Kenneth G. Torrence, Program Director and Founder of the Eastlake Male Youth Initiative.
Students began their tour in Hangar #1, where Ranger Frank Toland, Jr. recounted the story of then-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s 1941 visit to the Tuskegee Army Air Field, and flight with one of the Tuskegee pilots. Although the Secret Service was anxious about the ride, Chief Civilian Flight Instructor Charles Alfred Anderson, known today as “The Father of Black Aviation,” piloted Mrs. Roosevelt over the skies of Alabama for over an hour.
“The flight was actually a very big deal—because Chief Anderson was black,” Ranger Toland told students. “Some 75 years ago, people thought that someone could not fly a plane only because of the color of their skin. The men and women of the Tuskegee Airmen proved them wrong.”
Ranger Toland led students into the heart of Hangar 1 which housed two restored vintage airplanes and an interactive parachute display. The site featured not only the work of the pilots but the support crew that was part of their groundbreaking work. “For every Tuskegee Airmen pilot, there were perhaps a dozen men and women who provided ground support,” said Ranger Toland. “They had security guards, nurses, doctors, cooks, radio operators. All those folks are Tuskegee Airmen.”
Later, students proceeded to Hangar #2 where they viewed a full-sized red tail P-51 Mustang airplane. They were known as “Red Tails” during the war. Students also perused several exhibits that detailed information about the discrimination faced by the Tuskegee Airmen as well as the missions they were assigned during World War II.
“After their brave service, the Tuskegee Airmen returned home to a country where they continued to face systematic racism and prejudice,” said Reverend Torrence. “The Double V campaign, which stood for Victory Overseas, Victory at Home, represented an important step toward desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces in 1948.”
Students were treated to a private tour of the Tuskegee Institute Historic Site by Reverence Torrence. Reverend Torrence showed the students his childhood home as well as several historic buildings on the Tuskegee University campus, including the chapel, Washington’ statue, and the George Washington Carver Museum.
Afterward, students discussed what they learned about the trip and each completed a writing prompt about the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.
“I will carry out the legacy of the Airmen by convincing others to live up to their name,” wrote Cameryn Price, a 10th grader at Columbia High School.
Malachi Haliburton wrote, “I will encourage my friends and others about the the Tuskegee Airmen … telling them the history of the Airmen … hoping that they would be inspired to join the Tuskegee Airmen [as aviators].”
“Visiting places likes Tuskegee which have tremendous historical, social and cultural significance, awakens the imagination of young black boys. We’re trying to demonstrate our rich history and heritage, and show the greatness of African Americans who accomplished great things against overwhelming odds,” said Reverend Torrence.
Eastlake Male Youth Initiative meets every 2nd Saturday from October 2021 through May 2022. The program year ends with a commencement and awards program in June 2022. For more information on the Eastlake Male Youth Initiative, visit www.thetruthteller.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 678-884-3219.
About The Truth Teller Inc.
The Truth Teller Inc. (TTT) is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit charity with the mission to provide support and uplift for at-risk youth. Our partnerships with local Atlanta churches and community organizations have helped establish the A.P. Torrence Youth Leadership Academy and Eastlake Male Youth Initiative—programs that are truly responsive to the special needs of young black males. TTT is accomplishing its mission through mentoring, education programs and workshops designed to reach, teach and empower; thereby creating a culture shift and living legacy of future African American male leaders.