Summary: The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-Americans to fly in the US armed forces, but were subjected to Jim Crow laws and institutional discrimination. In this clip from a fictional film about the Tuskegee Airmen, Lt. Col. Benjamin O. Davis (Andre Baugher) defends his squadron, which was treated very different than white squadrons of the time. He argues that his "colored pilots" have "carried not only the burden of their dreams of becoming American military aviators but the hopes of an entire people." This is an excellent illustration of Du Bois' concepts of the veil and double consciousness. Looking at his white military superiors through the veil, Davis asks "how do I feel about my country ... and how does my country feel about me?" The veil not only refers to their skin color and seeing themselves through the eyes of others but also features a dimension of citizenship where some do not see Blacks as “true” Americans (i.e. full US citizens), which is forcefully depicted by the Airmen's treatment in the military and their denial of full rights. Similarly, double consciousness refers to a self-awareness of being not only an “American” but also an “African-American.” Through Lt. Davis' account of his squadron, it is clear that the the pilots were fully aware of themselves as proud Americans serving their country, but with a simultaneous awareness of being treated differently as African-Americans. In addition to asking students how this clip illustrates these concepts, it can also be a useful video for exploring race and nationalism.
Submitted By: Paul Dean