CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In the early 1940s, young African-American men from across the country made their way to the town of Tuskegee in southern Alabama. It was a small, rural community with a large Army airfield set up on the outskirts of town. That’s where the Tuskegee Advanced Flying School was located. Thousands of young men traveled to those runways to train as fighter and bomber pilots. They were determined to break the U.S military’s racial barriers and defend their country during World War II.
The story of the brave Tuskegee airmen, with their successful combat missions over North Africa and Italy, is well known. Several books and movies have tackled the subject, but a few years ago, a historian from the University of North Texas decided to collect stories from the men and women who occupied the airfield at that time. Dr. Todd Moye, UNT associate professor of history, combed through 800 interviews recorded as part of the Tuskegee Airmen Oral History project. Those stories formed the basis for his 2011 book, “"Freedom Fighters: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II."
At 1 p.m. on April 4, Moye will visit Austin Peay State University’s Morgan University Center Ballroom to deliver a lecture on his book as part of this year’s Asanbe Diversity Symposium. A panel discussion, “Diversity Meets the Culture of Allegiance,” will follow at 2:30 p.m.
The symposium, sponsored and organized by the APSU Department of Languages and Literature, was established 18 years ago in memory of Dr. Joseph Asanbe, who was the first professor of African and African-American literature at APSU. The event is co-sponsored by the Honors Program, the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts, the Diversity Task Force, the African American Studies Program, the APSU Department of History and Philosophy, the International Studies Program, the Office of Academic Affairs and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.
Moye’s book examines the personal stories of the pilots, crewmen and other personnel working at the Army airfield during the war. He also examines how the Tuskegee airmen’s success in combat helped desegregate the U.S. military after World War II.
A review in Publisher’s Weekly stated, “Moye’s lively prose and the intimate details of the personal narratives yield an accessible scholarly history that also succeeds as vivid social history.”
The Asanbe Diversity Symposium is free and open to the public. A book signing will follow the 1 p.m. lecture. For more information, contact the APSU Department of Languages and Literature at 221-7891.