Fly Family Activity
Crossroads Theatre Company's Fly is an artfully told American History story about the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. This work has evolved over the last decade, and we are very proud to present it. The show deals with mature issues such as racism, patriotism, perseverance, discrimination, teamwork and bravery. There is mature language including an explicit racial moniker. This story follows four pilots through their journey from training in Alabama (in the Jim Crow South) through protecting powerful bomber aircrafts and pilots in Europe.
We encourage you to continue the dialogue that this production opens up with your family. For each show in the season, we post a new Family Activity. Bookmark NewVictory.org/FamilyActivities to discover how you and your family can continue your theatergoing experiences at home.
You can also find all of our Family Activities (and more!) at Pinterest.com/NewVictory.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black servicemen to serve as military aviators during World War II. Before 1940, there were no African Americans flying in the U.S. Military due to the overtly prejudiced Jim Crow laws. However, the "Tuskegee Experiment" proved to be a catalyst for change in July 1941, when thirteen individuals were recruited to train at the Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF). By the following March of 1942, five aviators had completed the program, which entailed primary training on the ground, as well as secondary training requiring sixty hours of flight training and a solo cross-country flight.
At the time, there were about 40,000 African Americans enlisted in the military. By 1945, this number had increased to 1.2 million, with black men and women serving on the homefront, in the Pacific and in Europe. Between 1942 and 1946, 992 pilots graduated from the TAAF, with 450 serving overseas in either the 99th Fighter Squadron or the 332nd Fighter Group.
World War II exposed great hypocrisy within the United States. Many considered the Tuskegee Airmen to be fighting two wars, one against the axis powers of the world and one against outright racism exhibited by fellow Americans. These trailblazers changed the course of history in a time when an anti-lynching bill couldn’t even be passed.
“The Tuskegee Airmen served a nation not willing to serve them,” stated former Secretary of State Colin Powell. It was their dedicated and highly successful work that led to Harry Truman passing the executive order in 1948 demanding equal treatment and opportunity in the U.S. Armed Forces. This way, those deserving would have a shot at earning an officer ranking regardless of their skin color.
75 years later, the sacrifices and battles fought both on the homefront and overseas by the Tuskegee Airmen continue to shape our country and its politics. In 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama spoke of his career in public service and how it was "made possible by the path heroes like the Tuskegee Airmen trail-blazed." Two years later, he was inaugurated as the first black president of the United States, and President Obama made sure to invite many Tuskegee Airmen veterans personally to the celebration.
"They have a saying that excellence is the antidote to prejudice; so, once you show you can do it, some of the barriers will come down." — Dr. Roscoe Brown
"Back then, nobody realized the significance of what we were doing. Now, they seem to think we could walk on water." — Grant Williams
"The privileges of being an American belong to those brave enough to fight for them." — Benjamin O. Davis
"...In the Congress of the United States, there was a letter written about a study on black men by the War Department of the United States of America. Their conclusion was, in that letter, that the black man wasn't mentally capable of fighting, that he didn't have the spine, the determination, the whatever it took to be taught how to fly a plane and operate in an airfield. Here is this letter in Congress. Here is this smoke coming down from Mount Vesuvius. And here we are in the middle of all of this. And our determination in the back of our head was, 'We will fight. We will fight.'" — Dabney N. Montgomery
Want to learn more? Check out these links to additional historical resources and organizations dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
Located in Tuskegee, Alabama, where the training began, this historical site is dedicated to the African American military pilots who flew in World War II. Their website features videos, exhibits and more, taking you on a journey through Black American military history!
Tuskegee Airmen Chapters
There are 60 chapters of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. (TAI), whose mission is to:
- Honor the accomplishments and commemorate history of African Americans who participated in air crew, ground crew and operations support training in the Army Air Corps during World War II
- Introduce young people across the nation to the world of aviation and science through local and national programs such as Young Eagles and TAI youth programs and activities
- Provide educational assistance to students, and awards to deserving individuals, groups and corporations whose deeds lend support to TAI's goals
TAI also supports the Tuskegee Airmen Award, presented to deserving cadets in the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Program.
The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Museum
The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Museum in Detroit provides a place not only to record the contributions of Americans to the defense of our nation during a period in our history when they were not thought of as the equal of other citizens, but a place where all of the youth of America may come to acquire inspiration, counseling and assistance in achieving excellence in their own educational and career pursuits.
National World War II Museum
The National World War II Museum in New Orleans tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won and what it means today. Their website offers an "at-a-glance" history of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Commemorative Air Force – Red Tail Squadron
The CAF Red Tail Squadron’s RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit and P-51C Mustang travel nine months out of the year, crisscrossing the country to deliver the inspirational message of the Tuskegee Airmen. Their website has numerous pages dedicated to the training, deployment and legacy of the Airmen and their support crews.
History.com – Tuskegee Airmen
History.com has a handful of video interviews and segments on the Tuskegee Airmen and the history of African American service in the U.S. military.
There are many figures in history who have shaped where we are today. Find someone who was alive during the Civil Rights Movement and learn from their experiences!
Step One: Before interviewing someone, look at these quotes from iconic people in history:
||"We did things that sort of defied imagination... you came close to the ground, you cut the grass, you pulled up, you did things like that. That’s why we were so confident." – Dr. Roscoe Brown, Tuskegee Airman and Commander of the 332nd Fighter Group
||"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." — Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States
||"The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that of the good people." — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., African American Civil Rights Movement Leader
||"Children see things very well sometimes and idealists even better." — Lorraine Hansberry, American Playwright and Writer
||"If at times my productions do not express the conventionally beautiful, there is always an effort to express the universal beauty of man's continuous struggle to lift his social position and to add dimension to his spiritual being." — Jacob Lawrence, Painter Known for his Portrayal of the African American Life
||"In the end, anti-black, anti-female, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing—anti-humanism." — Shirley Chisolm, American Politician and First African American Woman Elected to Congress
Step Two: Find someone in your life who was alive during World War II or the Civil Rights Movement (1954-68) and ask them these following questions:
- What year were you born?
- What do you remember about World War II or the Civil Rights Movement?
- How did you feel about it at the time? Now, looking back, how do you feel about it?
- If you were to give advice to someone my age, what would it be?
- How is 2016 different than when you were growing up?
- What was a pivotal moment in your life?
Step Three: After the interview, take a photo together and post it on Instagram. Caption it with one thing you learned in your conversation, and tag us @NewVictoryTheater!
Morse code was vital in communicating messages between warships and naval bases in World War II. It is a method of transmitting text information as a series of on-off tones, lights, or clicks. One of the main characters in Fly is a tap griot, who tells the inner-stories of the four main characters by expressing their anger, fear and triumph through dance. In this activity use morse code as an inspiration to choreograph your own unique dance.
Each Morse code symbol represents a text character (letter or numeral) and is represented by a unique sequence of dots and dashes. The duration of a dash is three times the duration of a dot.
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Step One: Together, decide on a physical movement that represents a dot and a dash. Practice them together. For example, maybe a dot could be represented by a fist in the air or a dash could be represented by a slide to the left.
Step Two: Each family member should choose a word or phrase. Once they have chosen a word, translate that word into Morse code.
Step Three: Using the moves you agreed on in Step One, turn the word or phrase into a dance. Take time to rehearse individually.
Step Four: When you're ready, each dancer should perform their Morse code dance. Other members of the family should watch and try to guess what word or phrase they are performing. Make sure you take a bow at the end!
BONUS: To enhance your dance, add some flair. Think about:
- Speed of movement
- Levels—can you get down low at one point?
- Facial expressions
The Tuskegee Airmen were trained to fly planes in the air during World War II! Now it's your turn to fly your own (paper) plane!
Materials: Printable plane instructions, pieces of paper, masking tape, paper clips (optional)
Step One: Learn the science behind flying an airplane before making your own paper plane. How does an airplane fly? It's a balancing act of four forces—thrust and lift versus drag and gravity!
A force is something that pushes or pulls on something else. When you throw a paper plane in the air, you are giving the plane a push to move forward. In aviation, that forward push is called thrust. While the plane is flying forward, air moving over and under the wings provides a force under the plane called lift. If the plane has enough thrust and the wings are properly designed, the upward lift will counteract the plane's weight—the downward force of the gravity—and the plane will have a nice long flight.
But there is more than gravity, lack of thrust and poor wing design that sends a paper plane back to Earth. As a plane moves through the air, the air pushes against it, slowing it down. This force is called drag. Imagine you are in a moving car and you stick your hand out of the window. The force of the air pushing your hand back as you move forward is drag. This force diagram shows all the forces that will be acting on your paper plane:
Step Two: Make your paper plane! Use your own tried-and-true design, or try ours:
Step Three: Does size matter? Make planes of different sizes, but keep the design and the type of paper you use the same.
Step Four: Once you experiment and find your favorite plane, make a target on the wall using masking tape. Take turns flying the plane at the target. Whoever hits the bullseye wins!
BONUS: Some people like to add paper clips to their paper planes to adjust the balance of weight (the center of gravity) and make them fly better.
Artwork by Katie Diamond
||What did your family think of your Morse code dance?
Share your choreography with us on Instagram or Twitter, #DotDashTap.
||Does the story of the Tuskegee Airmen remind you of anything from current events?
Like us on Facebook and message us with your insights.