It was called the "Tuskegee Experiment."
Amid the unease of possibly being drawn into wars in Europe and Asia, the United States in the 1930s explored the idea of allowing African-Americans to serve as military pilots and looked to deeply segregated Alabama to get that idea off the ground.
"Potential candidates had to be college graduates and were expected to be officers in the Army Air Forces, usually second lieutenants, as they completed their advanced training," according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama.
More than 900 black pilots trained at the segregated Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama during the war, men from all over the country who fought racism and oppression at home and enemy pilots and antiaircraft gunners overseas.
More than 400 served in combat.
The Tuskegee Airmen lost 27 ships and would complete 1,578 total combat missions for the Fifteenth and Twelve Air Forces, destroying 150 enemy aircraft on the ground and 112 in air-to-air combat.
It was that record which inspired Harry Truman to eliminate racial divides in the military services.
These airmen shown listening to an instructor are among first class of African American pilots in history of the United States to get their wings at the advanced fly school on March 7, 1942 at Tuskegee, Alabama. Left to right: R.M. Long, G.S. Roberts, London, W. VA.; Capt. B. Washington; C.H. Debow, Indianapolis; Mac Ross, L.R. Curtis, New Rochelle, N.Y. (AP Photo)
B. I. Sanders
The Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941 attacked the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, and the nation was thrust into World War II. Approximately 300,000 uniformed men and women from Alabama served in the military branches during the war. More than 6,000 lost their lives, including those who served at Pearl Harbor, Normandy and Iwo Jima.
New or expanded military bases brought thousands of service members and civilians to Montgomery, Mobile, Selma, Ozark, Gadsden, Anniston and elsewhere, while munitions and supply plants roared day and night across the state.
In honor of Alabamas bicentennial, here is the third in a series of four pieces compiling more than 200 images capturing the states 200 years of history good, bad and ugly.
Part I: Creek War, Civil War, and the KKK
Part II: Promise, progress, Depression and death
Second Lieut. Russell Drinnan, an instructor in a Ranger division training at Camp Rucker, Ala., demonstrates how easy it is to clear bayonets, March 5, 1943. (AP Photo/B. I. Sanders)
Woman painting at Goodyear rubber plant in Gadsden, sometime between 1941-1945. Alabama Department of Archives and History.
James Estes of Marion, Alabama stands guard beneath the stars and stripes on board a destroyer at the U.S. Naval operational base at Londonderry, Northern Ireland, July 12, 1942. (AP Photo)
A large electric phosphate smelting furnace used to make elemental phosphorus in a TVA chemical plant in the vicinity of Muscle Shoals in 1942. (Library of Congress)
Mess Sergeant, S/Sgt. Milton Henney (right, foreground) of Opelousas, La., tastes the chow in the field kitchen in New Guinea on June 23, 1943. At left is Sgt. Henry Hall of Leeds, Alabama. (AP Photo/Pool/Carl Thusgaard)
Sergeant Joe Louis, top, world heavyweight boxing champion, stretched out for a rest in a water-filled trench in Alabama on March 11, 1944, where he is temporarily stationed, after crawling under live machine gun fire and through mud and barbed wire. He and his two companions were training on the battle conditioning course of the chemical warfare training centre at Alabama. (AP Photo)
Alabama also became home to 24 POW camps holding 16,000 German prisoners. Camp Aliceville in Pickens County is the largest, with a capacity for 6,000. German POWs housed in barracks in Aliceville. (Alabama Department of Archives and History.)
The war at home
When the war and the victory celebrations ended, Alabama still faced the deep racial divides that haunted us since before we joined the United States 125 years earlier.
In the years after World War II, Birmingham's African-American families began crossing the invisible line formed by decades old city ordinances that kept blacks out of the city's 'white neighborhoods.'
Barriers that kept black children in inferior schools and black women at the back of city buses were challenged in court and with acts of peaceful, civil disobedience.
Each hard fought victory was met with violence from spiteful racists.
Impromptu celebrations erupted in the streets of Birmingham as news of the surrender of Japan in August 1945, ending World War II, swept across Birmingham. (Robert Adams/The Birmingham News)
Jimmy Harris, right, 19, is questioned by Warden Tennyson Dennis, left, at the state prison in Montgomery, Ala., June 10, 1947, after Harris was rescued from a mob at Hurtsboro, Ala., which had a rope around his neck and was threatening to lynch him. Sheriff Ralph Matthews says Harris is held on an attempted rape charge. After his rescue from the mob, Harris was rushed to the jail at Phenix City and then to the state prison for his "protection." (AP Photo)
In the 20 years after WWII, bomb blasts turned Birmingham's Smithfield neighborhood into 'Dynamite Hill' and the Magic City into 'Bombingham.'
As civil rights activists made progress step by grueling step, their victories from the 1940s through the 1960s were punctuated with the sounds of bombs exploding.
After the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth fought to desegregate buses in 1956, his home was blown up on Christmas night.
When a truce was declared to end weeks of nationally televised protests in May 1963, bombs exploded at the Gaston Motel and the home of A.D. King, brother of MLK.
Days after city schools integrated in September 1963, four Sunday School students were killed in the deadliest, most tragic of the years-long series of bombings.
Original News caption: "Home Blasted: The four-bedroom home of a Negro woman who had challenged the city of Birmingham's zoning laws was blasted in 1950. This picture shows the over-all damage to the residence of Monroe and Mary Means Monk, 950 North Center Street. In the foreground is the wrecked porch, on which the bomb is believed to have exploded. Just back of the porch is the Monk's bedroom in which the owner of the house had retired before the explosion."
From a 2006 News article: "When Claretta Monk heard the blast four nights before Christmas 1950, she knew exactly what the target was: the home of her father and stepmother, Monroe and Mary Means Monk.
With a friend in tow, she hurried on foot from her residence in Enon Ridge to her parents' new home on the traditionally white west side of Center Street North.
''They stayed in it one night, and it was gone,'' said Monk."
.....The Monks were targets because they challenged (segregation) laws. The first black to do so was Sam Matthews. On Aug. 18, 1947, his home at 120 11th Court North was bombed.
Disgusted with the national Democratic Party for embracing aplatform to eliminate the poll tax and pass fair labor practices and anti-lynching laws, Southern state delegates walked out of the party's convention in Philadelphia into the rain on July 17, 1948and caught the Silver Comet train to Birmingham.
Bull Connor led the 6,000 people gathered under the ceiling fans there at Birmingham's Municipal Auditorium -- today called Boutwell Auditorium.
South Carolina Gov. Strom Thurmond, who had a relatively moderate record on race, accepted the presidential nomination to the newly formed Dixiecrat Party.
"There's not enough troops in the Army to break down segregation and admit Negroes into our homes, our theaters and our swimming pools," Thurmond said in his acceptance speech.
July 17, 1948: The Dixiecrat Convention assembles in Birmingham, selecting Strom Thurmond as presidential nominee for the States Rights Democratic Party. In the 1948 election, the Dixiecrats carry Alabama and three other Southern states.'Truman Killed By Civil Rights' reads the sign on this effigy of President Truman handing from the marquee of the Tutwiler Hotel tonight after a states rights meeting was held here.
Rosa Parks was arrested after refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery on Dec. 1, 1955. Her action ignited the yearlong Montgomery bus boycott and helped usher in the civil rights movement.
"While thousands of other Negroes boycotted Montgomery city lines in protest, Mrs. Rosa Parks was fined $14 in Police Court today for having disregarded last Thursday a driver's order to move to the rear of a bus," The Associated Press reported in December 1955.
"An emotional crowd of Negroes, estimated by the police at 5,000, roared approval tonight at a meeting to continue the boycott.
"Spokesmen said the boycott would continue until people who rode buses were no longer "intimidated, embarrassed and coerced." They said a "delegation of citizens" was ready to help city and bus line officials develop a program that would be "satisfactory and equitable."
"Mrs. Parks appealed her fine and was released under $100 bond signed by an attorney, Fred Gray, and a former state president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, E.D. Nixon."
Rosa Parks is fingerprinted by police Lt. D.H. Lackey in Montgomery, Ala., Feb. 22, 1956, two months after refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger on Dec. 1, 1955. She was arrested with several others who violated segregation laws. Parks' refusal to give up her seat led to a boycott of buses by blacks in Dec. 1955, a tactic organized by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which ended after the U.S. Supreme Court deemed that all segregation was unlawful,Dec. 20, 1956. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick)
In early 1956, the homes of (Martin Luther) King and E. D. Nixon were bombed," according to Stanford University.
"King was able to calm the crowd that gathered at his home by declaring: Be calm as I and my family are. We are not hurt and remember that if anything happens to me, there will be others to take my place."
"City officials obtained injunctions against the boycott in February 1956, and indicted over 80 boycott leaders under a 1921 law prohibiting conspiracies that interfered with lawful business. King was tried and convicted on the charge and ordered to pay $500 or serve 386 days in jail in the case. Despite this resistance, the boycott continued."
The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court and the boycott ended 0n Dec. 20, 1956.
"The next morning, (King) boarded an integrated bus with Ralph Abernathy, E. D. Nixon, and Glenn Smiley. King said of the bus boycott: We came to see that, in the long run, it is more honorable to walk in dignity than ride in humiliation. So we decided to substitute tired feet for tired souls, and walk the streets of Montgomery.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is welcomed with a kiss by his wife Coretta after leaving court in Montgomery, Ala., March 22, 1956. King was found guilty of conspiracy to boycott city buses in a campaign to desegregate the bus system, but a judge suspended his $500 fine pending appeal. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick)
Meanwhile, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth was the driving force behind the Birmingham integration efforts in the 1950s and early 1960s that energized the national civil rights movement.
He was brutally beaten by a mob, sprayed with city fire hoses, arrested by police 35 times and also blown out of his bed by a Ku Klux Klan bomb during his struggle against segregation in Birmingham and said he never feared death.
"I tried to get killed in Birmingham and go home to God because I knew it would be better for you in Birmingham," he once told an audience of students.
June 5, 1956: Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth on the night he founded the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights at Sardis Baptist Church. The meeting came one week after Alabama Attorney General John Patterson outlawed the NAACP. Said Shuttlesworth of the meeting: It was packed. People were downstairs and outside too. It was an enthusiastic meeting. The thing you have to remember is that I was challenging the whole segregation law. I was saying what I wanted to say and I was screaming against segregation. I was getting the crowd whipped up. After the NAACP was outlawed by Alabama Attorney General John Patterson. A response was organized as the ACMHR one week later. The ACMHR was the organization most often associated with Birmingham civil rights actions for the next 10 years, with Shuttlesworth's fiery oratorical style at the helm. (Tom Hardin photo)
Jay Reeves The Associated Pres
For 40 years starting in 1932, medical workers in Tuskegee withheld treatment for unsuspecting men infected with a sexually transmitted disease simply so doctors could track the ravages of the horrid illness and dissect their bodies afterward.
Workers initially recruited 600 black men into a health program with the promise of free medical checks, free food, free transportation and burial insurance in a county where many blacks had never even seen a doctor. The men were tested and sorted into groups -- 399 with syphilis and another 201 who were not infected.
The disease-free men were used as a control group. Health workers told syphilitic fathers, grandfathers, sons, brothers and uncles only that they had "bad blood."
None of the men were asked to consent to take part in a medical study. They also weren't told that "bad blood" actually was a euphemism for syphilis. Instead, doctors purposely hid the study's purpose from the men, subjecting them during the study's early months to painful spinal taps and blood tests.
And doctors never provided them with penicillin after it became the standard treatment for syphilis in the mid-1940s.
The government published occasional reports on the study, including findings which showed the men with syphilis were dying at a faster rate than the uninfected. But it's doubtful any of the men -- or their wives, girlfriends or other sexual partners -- had any idea what had happened until an Associated Press story was published nationwide on July 26, 1972.
Finally exposed, the study ended and the men sued, resulting in a $9 million settlement.
In this 1950's photo released by the National Archives, a black man included in a syphilis study has blood drawn by a doctor in Tuskegee, Ala. For 40 years starting in 1932, medical workers in the segregated South withheld treatment for unsuspecting men infected with a sexually transmitted disease simply so doctors could track the ravages of the horrid illness and dissect their bodies afterward. Finally exposed in 1972, the study ended and the men sued, resulting in a $9 million settlement. (National Archives via AP)
The Freedom Rides, a protest to show how Supreme Court decisions integrating public transportation were not being enforced in the segregationist South, left Washington in May 1961 headed to New Orleans. The buses were filled with blacks and whites, riding side by side.
Waiting for them were klansman in Alabama, determined the trip, and the Civil Rights Movement, would not proceed.
A Freedom Rider bus went up in flames in May 1961 when a fire bomb was tossed through a window near Anniston, Ala. The bus, which was testing bus station segregation in the south, had stopped because of a flat tire. Passengers escaped without serious injury. (AP Photo)
Klansmen attack a Freedom Rider at the Trailways Bus Station in Birmingham, Ala., May 14, 1961. (AP Photo/Birmingham Post-Herald, Tommy Langston, File)
May 20, 1961: Freedom Riders arrive at the Greyhound bus terminal in Montgomery where a mob attacks them. Anniston and Birmingham are scenes of similar mob mayhem. The Freedom Rides through the Deep South are challenging racial segregation on public transit.Freedom Riders John Lewis and Jim Zwerg after being beaten by a mob in Montgomery Alabama as they took part in the 1961 Freedom Rides that ultimately brought integration of interstate transportation to the South.
A workman removes a restroom sign at Montgomery Municipal Airport, Jan. 5, 1962, in compliance with a federal court order banning segregation. However, city officials delayed plans to remove waiting room furniture and close toilets and water fountains. But they said these and the airport restaurant will be closed if there is a concerted integration attempt. (AP Photo)
In the mayoral election of 1963, former Alabama Lt. Gov. Albert Boutwell received 39 percent of the vote and Birmingham Commissioner of Public Safety Theophilus Eugene "Bull" Connor received 31 percent, setting up an April 2 runoff.
Civil rights activists saw the discord in the municipal goverment of one of America's most violently segregated cities as a chance to finally kill Jim Crow.
Boutwell decisively defeated Connor and the next day, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) and the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) led sit-in demonstrations at downtown Birmingham lunch counters; 20 participants were arrested at Britt's lunch counters, while Kress, Loveman's, Pizitz, and Woolworth's closed their counters.
For the next five weeks, marchers, many of them children, took to the streets of Birmingham and were assailed by police dogs and fire hoses while the world watched on television.
With an estimated 40 percent of the student body at the all-black Parker High School skipping class to protest and the Birmingham City Jail filled beyond capacity, Birmingham Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor ordered the use of fire hoses and police dogs on the protestors in May of 1963.
June 11, 1963, has been remembered most often as the day Gp. George Wallace fulfilled a campaign promise made more than a year earlier as he kicked off his run for governor, Charles Dean wrote.
"I shall refuse to abide by any such illegal federal court order even to the point of standing in the schoolhouse door, if necessary."
But Wallace's stand in front of Foster Auditorium was not how Vivian Malone, later to become Vivian Malone Jones, wanted history to remember those events. Jones, who died in 2005, said on the 40th anniversary of her and James Hood's successful enrollment, that she hoped people would remember doors opened, not blocked.
"For so long, it's gone down in a negative way, it's gone down in the way we portray that event as a 'stand in the schoolhouse door.' The press picked it up that way, which to me was a negative," said Jones. "What I was hoping and hoping will happen .... is that we celebrate the opening of the door, not the stand, not the attempt to close the door."
Former Alabama Gov. George Wallace is shown in this June 1963 photo, when he vowed 'segregation forever' and stood in an Alabama school house door to keep blacks from enrolling at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Tuscaloosa News, Calvin Hannah)
Although only the state flag typically flew over Alabama's capitol, the Confederate flag was raised as U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy visited the state to meet with Gov. George Wallace in 1963. The two spoke for nearly an hour and a half.
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