Let the black man get upon his person the brass letters U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States.
—Frederick Douglass, Should the Negro Enlist in the Union Army?, 1863
Tuskegee aviation cadet Herbert O. Reid cover, April 14, 1942
The idea of an entirely African American squadron in the Army Air Corps seemed far-fetched at a time when there were only a handful of black pilots in the entire country. However, Tuskegee Institute had operated a federally-funded training program for black pilots since 1939, so when just such a squadron was authorized by the War Department it was based there. Lieutenant Colonel Noel F. Parrish, the unit’s third white commander, was directly responsible for ensuring the Tuskegee Airmen’s many successes.