Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities

Untold Story of Tuskegee Airmen Portrayed in Book of Rare Photos

Untold Story of Tuskegee Airmen Portrayed in Book of Rare Photos

Madison Aulner, a freshman at Auburn University, is participating in the Appalachian Teaching Project, and she recently interviewed Joe Caver, co-author of the book The Tuskegee Airmen, An Illustrated History: 1939-1949.  He will discuss the book in a free, public program on Tuesday, October 21 at 4 pm at the Tuskegee History Center, 104 S. Elm Street. 

Joseph Caver headed the Civil Archives Division at the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) in 1976), where he was the state agency’s first black archivist. The Civil Archives stored, organized, managed and disseminated the official papers of all state constitutional offices. While organizing the records of Alabama governors, two file drawers of correspondence in Governor Frank Dixon’s Papers (1939-1941) caught his attention. The majority of the letters were to Gov. Dixon opposing the establishment of a proposed black aviation program at Tuskegee. Not only did the letters come from the general public, but they also arrived from Alabama’s elected officials. In addition to the regular speech supporting Jim Crow policies, many people expressed deep fears of armed black soldiers in the state.  Mr. Caver was intrigued and he spent a few days learning all he could from the papers, where he was then introduced to what is now called the Tuskegee Airmen.

Mr. Caver departed from ADAH in 1981 to work for the Air Force History Research Agency. At the Agency, he met Jeff Jakeman who was working on his dissertation which would later be published as The Divided Skies. Caver served as Chief of Circulations and was responsible for the dissemination of the vast 100 million pages of the Air Force operational records. The training records and unit histories of the famed Tuskegee Airmen were a part of this collection, and he became the go-to-person for information on the Airmen.  He worked closely with Lucas Films providing data for the Red Tails movie and documentary Double Victory.  

“Fellow historians Jerome Ennels, Dan Haulman and I approached NewSouth Books about the need to publish an illustrated history about the famed airmen,” he says. “Because of the large number of photographs available, we wanted to do an illustrated history with a focus on the images of the Airmen.  The book morphed into a comprehensive study to document the contributions of the black airmen and their contributions in American History.”

When asked, “What do you hope people will take away from your book?” Mr. Caver says, “America needs heroes and if you want to pick out a group of young men who had a great effect on this country then the Tuskegee Airmen certainly meet that task.” The Tuskegee Airmen provide an example of fighting two battles:  fighting and overcoming the boundaries of race as well as fighting the Nazi powers of WWII. These young African American men, coming together and carrying the weight of their race on their shoulders, exceeded the expectations people had for them, and they became legends.

Join us on Tuesday, October 21 at 4:00 p.m. at the Tuskegee History Center (104 S. Elm Street) to meet and hear Joe Caver!  

For more information on the series, call (334) 844-6198 or visit


Last Updated: November 13, 2015