I have a message on my cell phone I will never delete. It’s the voice of Tuskegee Airman George Porter letting me know that he’d be very happy to meet with students in Martin Billings’ 11th grade US History class and share his experiences as a Tuskegee Airman.
Formed in 1942 amid controversy, the Tuskegee Airmen showed the nation its black citizens were equal in skill and patriotism to their white counterparts. Although George Porter was never a pilot (due to a health issues with high altitudes), he joined the Tuskegee team as a mechanic.
I met George a year ago, when he came to Mr. Billing’s class to join the keynote presenter Alexander Jefferson for a 3-way interactive videoconference. A Google search will bring up a long list of links for both these former Tuskegee Airmen. For an introduction to George, I particularly like the four-minute 2007 New Orleans Times-Picayune interview posted below.
Before, during, and after World World II, George Porter’s story is one of remarkable resiliency and a determination “to be the best you can be…to be even better than your best.” During the 40-minute visit to Mr. Billing’s class (below), George explains racism, segregation, and living through Jim Crow times, which he refused to be defeated by.
This March 2010 presentation and response to students’ questions will provide you with an understanding of George Porter’s commitment to making sure the public, especially young people, understand how eager and willing he and other African Americans were to fight for America, despite a nation’s long running record of treating them as second-class citizens.
I hope you will share George Porter’s story with your colleagues and students. He does not want this chapter of our nation’s history to be forgotten.