Tuskegee Airmen: They Met the Challenge

Our 3000th mural honors the Tuskegee Airmen

Tuskegee Airmen: They Met the Challenge by Marcus Akinlana. Photo by Jack Ramsdale.

About the Project 

They Met the Challenge pays homage to the Tuskegee Airmen and their message of perseverance to rise above adversity, racism, and unfair training and performance expectations in the US Armed Forces.

To create the mural, artist Marcus Akinlana worked closely with the Philadelphia Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen. The mural’s design incorporates their images as young men, uniformed pilots, at work and in flight, along with representative images of the myriad challenges they faced at home and abroad.

Elements of the design were inspired by the Airmen’s descriptions of their boyhood dreams of leaning how to fly. The bas-relief sculptures which adorn the mural were created by students in the Mural Arts Mural Academy who participated in a series of workshops with Akinlana.

The largest image is the head and goggles of a pilot in combat. Inside the goggles on the left is the image of Alfred Anderson, the airmen’s pilot trainer.

On the right is a boy holding a model airplane representing the desire to become a pilot. At the top, a Red Tail fighter squadron performs a successful mission escorting bombers. The pilot in the P51 Mustang is firing bullets into a Nazi ME-109.

Medals of Honor flank the main action. Also included: eight local Philadelphia Tuskegee Airmen painted as they looked in younger years, female parachute riggers, mechanics, the historic army airfield training building.

Six bas relief sculptures at the bottom were made in youth workshops with the artist.

Tuskegee Airmen were the first corps of African-American airmen, formed in 1941 under the command of Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. Davis. Davis was a West Point graduate and son of the first African-American General in the US Army, who trained nearly 1,000 men over a four period. Many were from Philadelphia.

Project Photos 

  • Airmen view the mural at its dedication in 2008. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Mural dedication in 2008. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Mural dedication in 2008. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Mural dedication in 2008. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Airmen Henry Moore (1921 – 2012) hung a poster of the mural in his home. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • The Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Airmen Henry Moore (1921 – 2012) showing memorabilia. Photo by Steve Weinik.


City of Philadelphia