Backed by Jeep-sponsored premieres in four cities across the country—Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and New York—the new George Lucas film Red Tails bested all expectations with a $19.1 million box office haul in its first weekend on the screen. The movie was inspired by the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, who helped turn the tide for the U.S. in World War II as the first all-black aerial combat unit.
Based out of Tuskegee, Ala., the Airmen were essential to Allied victory during the invasion of North Africa, then went on to fight with distinction in the skies over Europe, too. All told, some 350 pilots from the Tuskegee program saw combat in World War II, supported by thousands of other African-Americans who made their contributions in maintenance, support and administrative roles. Just as importantly, the success of the Tuskegee Airmen helped overturn segregation in the U.S. military—albeit not until 1948—and lay early groundwork for the civil rights movement in this country.