Image of the Air Force wings with the museum name underneath

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Charles Alfred “Chief” Anderson

A world-famous flier before World War II, Chief Anderson became the first African American to earn a commercial pilot license. In 1940 the Tuskegee Institute hired him as its chief flight instructor to develop its pilot training program. The U.S. Army Air Corps awarded Tuskegee the contract to provide primary flight training in February 1941.

Chief Anderson earned national support for Tuskegee flight training when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who had a keen interest in the program, visited the school in March 1941. When she accepted his offer of a flight, Anderson flew her around the school. This short flight, considered by most people at the time to be very daring, brought media attention to the program, demonstrated that blacks could fly airplanes, and showed that the Tuskegee program had the First Lady's complete trust and support.

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