Lot 215: Archive & photos TUSKEGEE AIRMEN Chas. Francis
December 1, 2016
Falls Church, VA, USALive Auction
Description: [Tuskegee Airmen/Charles E. Francis] Maryland native Charles E. Francis (1916-1993) is credited with coining the term "Tuskegee Airmen" when he authored a book in 1955 by the same name, "The Tuskegee Airmen: The Men Who Changed a Nation." Francis graduated from Dunbar High School in Wash. DC, and went on to Howard University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's Degree in American History. Inducted into the Army Air Corps in 1942 he applied for pilot training in 1943. Although he aged out without getting into the pilot program, he was accepted into the Army Air Force officer's Candidate School, where he graduated as a Second Lieutenant in 1944. Sent to Tuskegee Army Air Field (T.A.A.F) he worked primarily as an Base General Supply Officer. According to his own biography, while there "he realized that he was observing history in the making." Living, socializing and flying with these combat pilots enabled him to gather the materials for his book about the history of the first African American military aviators to break the color barrier. After his discharge in 1946 he returned to his former position at the Post Office in Maryland, and worked there until his retirement in 1976. The archive is notable for the 100+ WWII-era photographs of the Tuskegee pilots, often accompanied by single page biographies that outline their personal and professional accomplishments, and documents relating to his attempts to find a book publisher. Francis' letters show his determination to tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen while facing outright discrimination, indifference and lack of awareness of the role of Black Americans in World War II. Of special note: Copy of Feb. 21, 1976 Articles of Incorporation of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., listing the initial Board of Directors. ++ TL with notes by Francis expressing his frustration with publishing: "...They have refused to publish it on the grounds that it will cost too much to publish or they fail to see sufficient sales...I hope that in the near future some one will publish the story of the Negro pilots in World War II." ++ 1941 letter signed to Major Ellison from an F.D. Patterson referring to the quartering and feeding of the Tuskegee Air Corps Advanced Flying School. At this time the American military was racially segregated and the Tuskegee Airmen were trained separately at Moton Field, the Tuskegee Army Air Field, and educated at Tuskegee University, Alabama. ++ Copy of the "Tuskegee Army Air Field Marching Song" with words and music by T/Sgt. James O. B. Moseley, TAAF Band, 313 AAF. ++ Photo & biography for pilot Archie Williams, track star at the Univ. of CA, world record-holder for the 400 meter dash and member of the 1936 Olympics track team. ++ A TLs from a buyer to France requesting a refund since his "wife erroneously purchased the book." ++ A TL and photo from the Office for Public Relations about the T.A.A.F. baseball team, the Hawks. ++ Undated copy of letter c. 1950 from Francis to Andrew Heiskell (1915-2003) the Chairman and CEO of TIME Inc., which published LIFE, FORTUNE and TIME magazines, criticizing and returning his copy of the company's work, "History of World War II" because "...I feel that your history definitely does not live up to the editorial standards that I have associated with "Life." Fifteen millions of Negro citizens went to war in World War II As integral parts of these services they fought and died...Yet in your history no reference is made to the invaluable service of the Negro soldier " Contents of archive: Apprx. 100+ b/w photographs and negatives collected by Lt. Charles Francis, most stamped "Official US Army Air Force" photographs of the "Tuskegee Airmen," the WWII African American military pilots who formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces. Often clipped or attached to personnel profiles from the "Office of Public Relations." Most photographs in brown leatherette album, fastened to black paper pages with paper corners. ++ Approx. 25+ documents, many handwritten and signed, relating to Francis' efforts to find a publisher for his book. Incl. letters requesting permission to quote or use material related to WWII from existing sources; copyright information; legal correspondence and letter about 1976 revision and reprinting of book. ++ Documents and ephemera relating to Francis' life after WWII: a copy of Air Force magazine that quoted a Black airman for an article; Air Force Reserve documents; copy of 1975 Articles of Incorporation of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.; Tuskegee Airmen National Convention pamphlets; etc. ++ Personal material incl. family photos, notes, Francis' WWII Air Force cap, and the black tassel from his 1942 Howard University mortarboard. Condition varies, with expected toning and creasing to documents, some paper clip rust. Most photos are gelatin silver, in very good condition.