During a time when many people thought African-Americans lacked intelligence, skill, courage and patriotism, a young black man from Brazil challenged those ideas to become a hero of the skies.

Charles B. Hall probably had no idea he would become instrumental in helping his country dominate the air space over foreign lands in World War II and break down the barriers of prejudice at home in America.

Born Aug. 25, 1920, Hall grew up during the Great Depression.

Before the civil rights movement of the 1960s, many African-American families of the 1930s were living separate lives than those of white families across the United States. It was a time of separate restrooms and water fountains, job and wage discrimination and segregation.

While African-American children across the nation were forced to attend inferior schools, Hall attended Brazil High School and excelled at several sports.

Upon graduation in 1938, Hall attended Eastern Illinois State Teachers College, where he excelled at track and football while studying premedics.

In the meantime, in anticipation of the United States being drawn into World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt implemented a pilot training program to create a reserve of trained civilian fliers in case of national emergency.

African-American leaders argued that blacks should share with whites the burden of defending the United States, and Roosevelt soon opened the program to African-Americans.

In 1940, the Selective training and Service Act banned racial discrimination, clearing the way for African Americans to be trained for Civilian Air Corps service.

The African Americans were sent to Tuskegee Institute, a college founded in Alabama in 1881 by Booker T. Washington, to be trained. Hall was one of the first of 43 African Americans to participate in the training.

With the war looming in July 1941, Tuskegee Army Air Field was established and the training changed to create fighter pilots. The first fighter pilots graduated on March 7, 1942, forming the 99th Pursuit Fighter Squadron, a part of the 332nd Fighter Group.