February 1, 2020
February is Black History Month
APFA pays tribute this month to African Americans throughout history who pioneered the aviation industry.
President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps (AAC). Trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. Their impressive performance earned them more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses!
Ruth Carol Taylor, the first African American Flight Attendant in the United States. Ms. Taylor was hired by Mohawk Airlines in December of 1957. Although her career was cut short just six months later due to the carrier’s marriage ban, Ms. Taylor’s trailblazing started a revolution in the industry. The Civil Rights Movement was still in its early days – it had only been three months since the Little Rock Nine integrated Little Rock Central High when Ms. Taylor was hired.
In the spring of 1958, Margaret Grant was hired by TWA making her the first African American Flight Attendant on a leading mainline carrier. In October of 1959, the New York City branch of the Congress of Racial Equality lead a march through Manhattan encouraging African Americans to patronize TWA in recognition of its hiring practices.
In 1963, Joan Dorsey became the first African American hired by American Airlines. Ms. Dorsey applied for a the job at American after finishing a degree in education at the University of Arizona. Dorsey graduated at the top of her class from what was then known as “Stewardess College” and began her career based in New York. She retired from the airline in 1999, after 36 years of service.
On June 30, 1967, the U.S. Air Force selected the first African American astronaut, Major Robert Lawrence, to train for a highly secretive mission to spy on the Soviet Union from space.
Major Lawrence was an accomplished jet pilot with a doctorate in physical chemistry and was selected for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program the day after he graduate from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot school in 1967.
“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”– Mae Carol Jemison
Mae Carol Jemison, former NASA astronaut, was the first black woman to travel into space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour.