Item #8806 [A set of Tuskegee Institute materials from a National Defense student in 1943.]. William P. Robinson.
[A set of Tuskegee Institute materials from a National Defense student in 1943.]
[A set of Tuskegee Institute materials from a National Defense student in 1943.]
[A set of Tuskegee Institute materials from a National Defense student in 1943.]
[A set of Tuskegee Institute materials from a National Defense student in 1943.]
[A set of Tuskegee Institute materials from a National Defense student in 1943.]
[A set of Tuskegee Institute materials from a National Defense student in 1943.]
[A set of Tuskegee Institute materials from a National Defense student in 1943.]
[A set of Tuskegee Institute materials from a National Defense student in 1943.]
[A set of Tuskegee Institute materials from a National Defense student in 1943.]
[A set of Tuskegee Institute materials from a National Defense student in 1943.]
[A set of Tuskegee Institute materials from a National Defense student in 1943.]
[A set of Tuskegee Institute materials from a National Defense student in 1943.]
[A set of Tuskegee Institute materials from a National Defense student in 1943.]

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Robinson, William P.

[A set of Tuskegee Institute materials from a National Defense student in 1943.]

Tuskegee, Alabama, July–Dec., 1943. 17 Tuskegee postcards, (3.5” x 5.5”), of which 16 are in color, 2 are duplicates, and 10 were sent, mostly to “Master Wallace B. Robinson,” but some to “Mrs. William P. Robinson.” CONDITION: Very good. [With] Brochure, 8.5” x 3.75, 8 panels. Numerous b&w illus. Faint pencil inscription in upper margin of first panel: “GRANITE 6175.” CONDITION: Very good, very light wear to outer “spine” fold, two creases at lower right corner of first panel.

A collection of postcards and a brochure from a Massachusetts man studying at “the center for African-American aviation during World War II.”

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American military aviators to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps (a forerunner of the U.S. Air Force). They trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama and flew more than 15,000 attacks in Europe and North Africa during World War II, their valiant performances bringing them more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and their service paving the way for the integration of Black Americans into the country’s armed forces. The brochure and postcards in this lot were sent by a Massachusetts man studying at Tuskegee in 1943. William Phelan Robinson was born in 1913 in Dedham, Massachusetts, and lived with his wife Helen and their sons “Wally” and “Robbie” in Walpole. Robinson’s name is not among the list of nearly a thousand pilot graduates of the aviation program, but he was apparently among the far greater number of people—some 16 to 19,000, both Black and white, male and female, military and civilian—who participated in what Tuskegee pilot and historian Theopolis W. Johnson calls the “Tuskegee Experience” between 1941 and 1949. Robinson was drafted in 1940, and though his draft card notes his complexion as “Dark” and his hair as “Black,” his race is given as “White,” possibly suggesting that he was of mixed race. According to a notice in The North Adams Transcript published on May 31st, 1945, a “William Robinson” was “killed in training plane crash off Miami, March 12, 1945.”

The postcards offered here—ten of which are postmarked from the Tuskegee Institute—show halls, churches, monuments, and other landmarks on the Tuskegee campus, including “The Oaks, Home of Booker T. Washington,” “The John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital,” “Science Hall,” and “James Hall, Girls’ Dormitory.” Several cards, addressed to “Master Wallace Barr Robinson” and signed “Daddy,” situate the buildings in relation to Robinson’s daily life, which evidently took place on the campus. For instance, a postcard dated December 9th showing the George Washington Carver Museum reads:

Dear Wally,

This building is right behind the one where I am living right now. I walk past it every morning, noon and evening, going to work and back to eat and sleep. You know, it’s just as warm as summer here where I am!

Love
Daddy

Another, picturing the Trade Building, reads:

This is the place where the boys down here get together and sing. They sing awfully nice about things like the Army Air Corps and so on.

Love
Daddy

The “Aerial View of Tuskegee Institute, Alabama” is among several cards bearing notes to Robinson’s wife, and an arrow on the view, evidently added by Robinson himself, points to a building that may be his dormitory. A card picturing the Booker T. Washington Monument reads: “This monument is right out in front of our hall. As you can see, you were right that B.T.W. founded this place.”

The brochure—“Training for National Defense”—provides information on Tuskegee’s programs, job placement numbers, “Points of Special Interest” (including the George Washington Carver Museum and “Singing Windows” in the chapel), and multiple break-downs of tuition cost, depending on scholarships and work-study. Its programs in nursing and “rural community leadership,” as well as its scholarships for foreign students, are presented as contributing to national defense. One image shows “President Patterson” inspecting “War Relief garments—many of them made by teachers, students, faculty wives, and members of the Tuskegee Institute Chapter, American Red Cross,” and a panel on the verso pictures a Haitian student of Aviation inspecting his plane.

REFERENCES: “Arms Students Pay Tribute to Heroes,” The North Adams Transcript, May 31, 1945, p. 11; “Tuskegee University’s Leadership Role In Developing The Tuskegee Airmen and Aviation Opportunities For African Americans,” Tuskegee University online.

Item #8806

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