Tuskegee Airmen were the men and women (African-Americans and others) involved in the Tuskegee Experience, the Army Air Corps program to train African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft during World War II. The 992 pilots who graduated from the Tuskegee airfield courses advanced race relations through their integration in the U.S. Army Air Force and compiled a combat record still unsurpassed in military history. After their military careers, many of the Tuskegee Airmen continued professional civilian careers that help to establish an African American middle class during the mid-twentieth century.
The goal of the Tuskegee Airmen Collections is to identify, collect and preserve their history, calling special attention to their distinguished military service and to document their monumental contributions to economic development, race relations, politics, business, medicine, education, and many other fields following their service. Sharing the collection through education programs, courses and exhibits is another important goal. The Tuskegee Airmen Collections comprise personal papers of Tuskegee Airmen, papers of Tuskegee Airmen memorial organizations, photographs, books, artifacts, and research materials compiled by scholars and independent researchers.
These collections are rich in the subjects they cover and can support research in several key areas including Civil Rights, African American women in WWII, African American participation in WWII, U.S. military integration, the African American middle class and WWII military air power, among others. These collections are important for understanding the rise of the African American middle class in California and especially in Southern California, where the private sector military industry and military bases employed many former Tuskegee Airmen.
Highlights include the papers of several prominent Airmen such as Colonel Charles E. McGee, who still holds the record for the most three war combat missions flown, Buford Johnson who became one of the first African American master mechanics in the U.S. Army Air Force, and William A. Campbell, who on June 2, 1943 was among the group of soldiers that served as wingmen to pilots of the 33rd Fighter Group in the first combat mission for 99th pilots in WWII.
The Tuskegee Airmen Collections, formerly known as The Tuskegee Airmen Archive, were stewarded to the UCR Library in 2005 by Dr. Ruth M. Jackson and Col. Ralph W. Smith. The library continues to add materials to the collection.