First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and “Chief” Charles Alfred Anderson, 1941

In 1941, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt flew with one of America’s first black pilots, Charles Alfred Anderson, over Tuskegee, Alabama. Mrs. Roosevelt’s flight was well-publicized, and it demonstrated to the public and the military that African Americans could be competent pilots. Shortly after the flight, the Tuskegee flight training program for black pilots was established. This photograph is in collections of the Smithsonian Institution and was provided to the Roosevelt Library by Maxwell Air Force Base. (Titled “C. Alfred Anderson” via  National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, SI Neg. No 90-7010)

In her April 1, 1941 “My Day” column, Mrs. Roosevelt commented on her flight saying “Finally we went out to the aviation field, where a Civil Aeronautics unit for the teaching of colored pilots is in full swing. They have advanced training here, and some of the students went up and did acrobatic flying for us. These boys are good pilots. I had the fun of going up in one of the tiny training planes with the head instructor, and seeing this interesting countryside from the air.” (Complete article)

If you are interested in more information on the Tuskegee Airmen, please see our educational curriculum guide “Red Tailed Angels: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen” available on our website.