Historic Events

Significant Events:

After the first successful all Black Airshow in September, a second one was presented in December.

First All-Black U.S. Air Show, 1931

Bessie Coleman, a pioneer aviatrix who paved the way for Black and Native American pilots, was an inspiration which became evident following her death. Several Bessie Coleman Aero Clubs were created in her memory, each providing encouragement and motivation inspired by her accomplishments. On September 7, 1931, the clubs sponsored the first all-Black air show, in Los Angeles, which attracted 15,000 spectators. That same year, a group of Black pilots established an annual flyover of Coleman's grave at Lincoln Cemetery, Chicago. 

Black Americans Admitted into the Civilian Pilot Training Program, 1939

The Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) was a flight training program which ran from 1938-1944 and was sponsored by the United States government to increase the number of civilian pilots and enhance military preparedness. War was looking inevitable, so the program was expanded and included in schools and universities. The CPTP eventually operated at 1,132 colleges and universities and 1,460 flight schools, including the Tuskegee Institute. The addition of the Tuskegee Institute, Hampton Institute, Virginia State University, and Howard University, to the CPTP, helped open the doors for the first Black military pilots. The onset of World War II and political pressure combined to compel the U.S. Army Air Corps to employ Black pilots, the majority of whom were graduates of the CPTP. 

Membership card for the NAAA.

The National Airmen's Association of America, 1939 

The National Airmen's Association of America (NAAA) was organized in Chicago by a group of Black American aviators and aviation enthusiasts. The founding members included key figures from Chicago's Black aviation community: Cornelius R. Coffey, Dale L. White, Harold Hurd, Willa B. Brown, Marie St. Clair, Charles Johnson, Chauncey E. Spencer, Grover C. Nash, Edward H. Johnson, Janet Harmon Bragg, and George Williams. In the words of founding member Janet Harmon Bragg, the purpose of the NAAA "was to stimulate interest in aviation" and improve the knowledge of "the entire field of aeronautics for Blacks." As the threat of war loomed in the late 1930s, the federal government began to expand opportunities for Black Americans in aviation training. NAAA leaders recognized that these new initiatives held great promise for expanding black participation in aviation, and in May 1939, they sponsored a cross-country flight to Washington, D.C., by two of their members, Chauncey Spencer and Dale White, to lobby for Black inclusion in the new federally backed aviation training programs. The successful trip led to congressman Everett M. Dirksen's sponsoring of a nondiscrimination amendment to the act that established the Civil Aviation Authority's Civilian Pilot Training Program.

Executive Order 8802
Executive Order 8802

Executive Order 8802, 1941

Executive Order 8802, also known as the Fair Employment Act, was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 25, 1941 to prohibit racial discrimination in the national defense industry. It was the first federal action, in the United States, to promote equal opportunity hiring and prohibit employment discrimination. The order required all federal agencies and departments to administer vocational and training programs “without regard as to race, creed, color, or national origin."

Executive Order 9981
Executive Order 9981

Executive Order 9981, 1948

Executive Order 9981, which was signed by President Harry Truman on July 26, 1948, three years after the end of World War II, called for equal opportunity in the armed forces. The order established the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services. The order states, "that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin." In 1949, the U.S. Air Force became the first branch of the military to integrate its troops.

Air Force Integration, 1949

After President Truman signed Executive Order 9981, calling for integration in the military, the U.S. Air Force was the first service to act. The Air Force had been studying solutions to improve military efficiency. The criticism of some Air Force leaders was quickly silenced by W. Stuart Symington, Secretary of the U.S. Air Force. Symington told the Air Force brass that if they didn't agree with the policy they should resign. As early as 1947, Secretary Symington notedthat Black Americans should be allowed into the Air Force solely on the basis of their merits and abilities. After the signing of Executive Order 9981, and under his guidance, the Air Force became the first service to achieve complete integration, in 1949.

First all-female African-American flight crew
First all-female African-American flight crew

The First All-Female Black American Flight Crew, 2009

Made up of Captain Rachelle Jones, first officer Stephanie Grant, and flight attendants Diana Galloway and Robin Rogers, the Atlanta-based Delta Connection carrier Atlantic Southeast Airlines flew the airline industry's first commercial jet flight operated by an all-female Black American crew on February 12, 2009. Flight 5202, a Bombardier CRJ700, departed Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International enroute to Nashville International; it returned with the same crew.

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San Diego Air & Space Museum

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