Silver Wings & Civil Rights: The Fight To Fly
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In WWII, the first group of African-Americans to fly for the U.S. military proved themselves equal among their fellow flyers. Overseas they had defeated one enemy. At home, the fight for equality was to be their greatest victory as they blazed the way for Civil Rights.

This award-winning 90-minute feature documentary tells the story of the first all-Black fighter squadron that escorted bombers into the European theater during World War II. Named for the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama where they trained, the Tuskegee Airmen were instrumental in bringing about the 1948 Presidential Order that desegregated the armed forces.

The documentary includes vintage footage, photographs, reenactments and first-hand accounts from surviving members of the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bomber Group. Silver Wings & Civil Rights: The Fight To Fly is the first feature by writer/director Jon Anderson. Says Anderson, "The story of the Tuskegee Airmen has inspired me since I first read about them in the studies of WWII. They were a group of young Americans who flew and fought even though they lived in a country that, at the time, institutionalized racism. Many have heard about the black fighter pilots who never lost a bomber they escorted over fortress Europe, a great feat for any aviator or soldier. But their greater achievement is lost to many more."

Anderson goes on to say, "The Tuskegee Airmen actually fought two wars, one that changed the world, and one that helped change our nation. 101 black officers of the 477th bomber group were arrested and considered to be mutinous when they entered a whites-only U.S. Army officer's club in which they were not welcome. The U.S. military was a microcosm of the society at the time, accepting minorities as a whole but denying them personal liberties. In what would later be known as civil disobedience, the men of the bomber group defied the U.S. government and caused a change in the U.S. military when president Truman finally desegregated the Armed forces in 1948."

This true story of one of the first civil rights battles has never fully been told until now. This project is unique in that the entire Tuskegee Airman experience is told first-hand by those who lived it: not only the fighter pilots of the European campaign, but also those who won the battle of will stateside. This project is a tribute to our WWII veterans who freed the world, and to those who lifted the veil of the ignorance of racism.

Silver Wings & Civil Rights: The Fight To Fly is the winner of the 2004 Miami International Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature.

LEFT: Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson tells the story of his being shot down and subsequent capture by the Nazis.
CENTER: Jon Anderson interviews Lt. Col. Mitchell Higginbotham at the 2003 Tuskegee Airmen Inc. convention in Denver.
RIGHT: Capt. Omar Blair describes his role in the infamous "Great Train Robbery."

Interviews were conducted and reenactments were shot over a period of 5 years; the post-production process took nearly 10 months. The last interviews were completed in August, 2003 at the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. (TAI) convention in Denver. The final edit was completed two months later in October, 2003.

36 original Tuskegee Airmen graciously participated in the making of this documentary. While not every one of them is included in the final cut, the filmmakers are grateful for the priceless stories, insight and information shared by all: Reginald Ballard, Howard Baugh, Omar Blair, Frank Bolden (correspondent, Pittsburgh Courier), Roscoe Brown, William Campbell, Adolf Caso (author), Charles Dryden, Wilson Eagleson, Eugene Garges (flight instructor), Leroy Gillead, Joe Gomer, Leo Gray, Carl Hackett, James Harvey, Vernon Haywood, Mitchell Higginbotham, Charles Hill, Wesley Hurt, Alexander Jefferson, Clayton Lawrence, Donavan Leighton, Charles Magee, Hiram Mann, Robert McClumlum, Buck Newsome, Maury Reid, Edith Roberts (widow of George "Spanky" Roberts), Harry Sheppard, Harry Stewart, George Taylor, Porcher Taylor, Alva Temple, Roger Terry, James Warren, Spann Watson, Yenwith Whitney, Ci Williams, Eldridge Williams, Od Woodhorse and Nasby Wynn.

Discovery Zone: Who were the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II?

Read Street Miami's interview with writer/director Jon Timothy Anderson (1/30/04)


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