High flying "Red Tails" teaches students history lesson

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - About 100 students got permission to skip school Friday morning and go to the movies. They attended a special screening of the movie "Red Tails", which tells the story of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen.

The African-American fighter pilots not only fought for their country during World War II, they also battled extreme racism.

Students from Pass Christian, Gulfport, and Harrison Central High Schools arrived at Gulfport's Cinemark Theater, eager to see a history lesson come to life on the big screen.

Several hundred people also showed up to watch "Red Tails", including the daughters of the late Colonel Lawrence Roberts. The Gulfport NAACP hosted the screening in honor of Roberts, who flew with the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

"The thinking at that time was African Americans would not be able to handle this and they proved we're just as intelligent as anybody else, that we can do anything that anyone else can do. Our children and the world's children need to understand that," said Ruth Story, Gulfport NAACP President.

The high-flying flick chronicles a group of African American Tuskegee pilots who encountered racism during World War II. The unit was segregated and the men were known for the painted red ends on their fighter planes.

"It was very interesting. It had drama, action, and it was a tearjerker for some people," said Gulfport High Senior Devin Harris.

"Nowadays, there are so many people who are giving up and not concentrating on what they need to get done.  I think this movie would inspire them to just hold on, be strong, and never give up," said Pass High Senior Reletha Rials.

"It was so compelling," said Sally Ann Roberts. "For me, I was just shaking in my seat watching that. The movie really captured the bravery of these men and I am just indebted to George Lucas for doing this."

After the movie, the Roberts sisters told the students they too can soar above adversity.

"What we saw was the work of those who've gone before us and yes, we owe a great deal to those whose shoulders we stand on today. But we must go further," Sally Ann told the audience.

"This is not, as we heard, about blacks, about whites, about Tuskegee Airmen. It is about our history as a country and all of that was captured so wonderfully.  It was very inspiring and yes, it does make you want to do better things in your life," said Dorothy Roberts McEwen.

"African Americans today are able to climb to the ranks of four-star generals. That was a hard thing in those days. It was a hard fight for them and I thank them," said Chief Master Sergeant Curtis Jennings from Keesler AFB.

Before the moviegoers left the theater, they stood up and honored the Tuskegee Airmen with a rousing applause.

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