Did you know the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all-black group of fighter pilots to see combat in the US military, started their training in Rantoul, Illinois? This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about Chanute Air Force Base’s connections to the Tuskegee Airmen and will learn more about the Commemorative Air Force’s Red Tail Squadron, who will be giving an air show in the area this weekend.
This hour on Focus, we’ll take a look back at East Central Illinois’ connections to the first all-black group of United States fighter pilots with Jim Eldridge, former education director at the Octave Chanute Air Museum in Rantoul. Brad Lang, a professional pilot who volunteers with the Commemorative Air Force’s Red Tail Squadron also joins us. His dad, Donald, served with the Tuskegee airmen in WWII.
Host Jim Meadows also talks with Doug Rozendaal who’s been involved with the CAF Red Tail Squadron since its inception, and has overseen two restorations of a Mustang plane that he'll fly into Chanute on Friday. Tragically, the second restoration of the plane was inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen’s story in more ways than one. We’ll talk with both pilots about flying a vintage plane and about why they volunteer so much of their time to keep the memory and story of the Tuskegee Airmen alive.
Do you have questions about Chanute’s connections to the Tuskegee airmen? Maybe their story inspires you...we’d love to hear from you this hour on Focus!
In 1963 when he made the trip from Champaign to Washington D.C., Bill Smith was 21. As an active member of the NAACP chapter at the University of Illinois, he says he remembers feeling awed and inspired by the sheer number of other people who were gathered at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Even as a high school student at Champaign Central, he says he was involved with bringing the blacks and whites together. But it was when he returned from the march that he says he was motivated to really become an agent for change.
This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Smith about his experience at 1963 March on Washington; his relationship with his long-time mentor Erma Bridgewater, and about the racial climate during the 1960’s in east central Illinois.
We’re also joined by Sundiata Cha-Jua, an Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign about the significance of the march in the context of the larger movement and about Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Did you know someone who marched in a protest during the 1960’s? Did you? What was it like to be a part of one? We want to hear from you this hour on Focus!
In 1870, Frances Willard proclaimed before the Illinois General Assembly that it was an “insult” that 21 year old boys could vote to make laws for their mothers but that the mothers themselves had no voice. More than three decades later, she, among several others, finally convinced enough lawmakers that was true. In 1913, Illinois gave women the right to vote in Presidential elections. The catch – the bill for women’s suffrage did not apply to gubernatorial elections or elections for state representatives, congressmen or senators, yet.
This hour on Focus, we’ll remember the men and women who pushed for women’s suffrage in Illinois, and those who pushed back. Mark Sorensen, who has written extensively about suffrage in the state, joins us. He’ll tell us about some of the key players who fought for the bill and how the state worked to dissuade female voters from exercising their new right to vote. We’ll also talk Professor Virginia Boynton of Western Illinois University about why it took so long for women to be granted the right to vote in the first place.