You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen

by Carole Boston Weatherford and Jeffery Boston Weatherford

“You are itching to fight. / How can America win, you wonder, / with one arm... read more

“You are itching to fight. / How can America win, you wonder, / with one arm tied? With black troops / stuck as second-class soldiers, / barred from the skirmishes / in the skies?” (from “Anxious”). The story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American pilots trained by the U.S. military, is told through finely crafted poems that use the second-person voice to great effect, giving a sense of immediacy to a narrative that takes place in the early to mid-1940s. The “you” of the poems goes from training, to waiting to be called into battle by a reluctant military, to flying with fellow Airmen as bomber escorts on missions over Germany. The Tuskegee pilots earn the nickname “Red Tail Angels” for the “jazzy” paint on the tails of their planes and the life-saving accuracy of their guns defending Allied flyers, all as racism rages at home. An “Epilogue” states, “You’ll sit up front with lawmakers / when the first black president is sworn in. / And you will know your fight / was worth it.” Understated scratchboard illustrations provide an affecting accompaniment to a narrative that concludes with an author’s note, timeline, and resources. (Ages 10–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2017

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