• Eugene Jacques Bullard became the first Black American fighter pilot licensed in France (1917).


  • Bessie Coleman became the first Black and Native American female pilot, licensed in France (1921).
  • James Herman Banning became the first Black American to obtain a pilot’s license from the United States Department of Commerce (1926).
  • William J. Powell establishes The Bessie Coleman Aero Club (1929).


  • The first all-Black air show in U.S. history takes place (1931).
  • The Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical School provided instruction in aircraft mechanics to its first all-Black class (1931).
  • Cornelius Coffey became the first Black American to earn both a pilot's and mechanic's license (1931).
  • The Challenger Air Pilots' Association became Chicago's first Black flying club (1931).
  • Frank Hammond set the world record for the most parachute jumps (13) in one day (1931).
  • William J. Powell earned his pilot's license at the Los Angeles School of Flight (1932).
  • James Herman Banning and Thomas C. Allen- a.k.a. "Flying Hobos"- became the first Black aviators to complete a transcontinental flight; it took a total of 41 hours 27 minutes (1932).
  • Dorothy Darby became first Black and first female professional parachute jumper (1932).
  • C. Alfred "Chief" Anderson, often called the "Father of Black Aviation,” became the first Black American to earn a transport and a commercial pilot's license (1933).
  • C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson and Dr. Albert E. Forsythe became the first Black pilots to complete a round-trip transcontinental flight from Atlantic City to Los Angeles (1933).
  • Janet Harmon Bragg, a licensed pilot, bought the first aircraft for the Challengers Air Pilots' Association (1934).
  • "Black Wings" by William J. Powell was published (1934).
  • Earl W. Renfroe became the first Black American in Illinois, and only the third in the nation, to obtain a commercial pilot's license (1934).
  • Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., became the first Black cadet to graduate from the United States Military Academy, West Point in the 20th century (1936).
  • Willa Brown earned her pilot's license, making her the first Black American woman to earn a private pilot's license in the United States (1937).
  • Cornelius Coffey opened the Coffey School of Aeronautics (1937).
  • Grover C. Nash, the first Black pilot to deliver airmail for the U.S. Postal Service, became a licensed pilot (1938).
  • The National Airmen's Association, a nationwide organization for Black aviators, was established in Chicago, Illinois (1939).
  • Willie "Suicide" Jones became the world record-holder for the delayed parachute jump (1939).
  • Dale L. White and Chauncey E. Spencer completed a 3,000 mile round-trip flight from Chicago to Washington D.C. for the National Airmen's Association and the Chicago Defender to publicize the goal of wider Black involvement in aviation (1939).
  • Black Americans gained admission into the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) (1939).


  • Executive Order 8802, which provided for full participation in defense programs regardless of race, was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1941).
  • The all-Black 99th Fighter Squadron of the Army Air Corps was activated (1941).
  • The first five Black cadets to be commissioned as pilots of the Army Air Forces graduated from the Tuskegee Army Airfield program (1942).
  • The 332nd Fighter Group at Tuskegee Army Airfield was activated (1942).
  • The 99th Fighter Squadron flew its first combat sortie over Pantelleria, an island near Sicily (1943).
  • Charles B. Hall became the first Black fighter pilot to down an enemy aircraft (1943).
  • Major George D. "Spanky" Roberts assumed command of the 99th Fighter Squadron, succeeding Colonel Davis (1943).
  • Colonel Hubert F. Julian "Black Eagle of Harlem" established Black Eagle Airlines (1946). 
  • Three years after the end of World War II, President Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which called for equal opportunity in the armed forces (1948).
  • The U.S. Air Force became the first armed service to integrate (1949).


  • Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. became the first Black general in the U.S. Air Force (1954).
  • Captain August Martin became the first Black American cargo pilot and Captain of a regularly-scheduled airline (1955).
  • Perry Young became the first Black American pilot hired by a commercial airline (1956).
  • Ruth Carol Taylor was hired by Mohawk Airlines as the first Black American flight attendant (1958).


  • The New York State Commission Against Discrimination faulted Capital Airlines for failing to hire Patricia Banks, a Black American woman who had been denied employment as a flight attendant despite meeting all job requirements (1960).
  • Vance A. Marchbanks Jr., a flight surgeon, served on the flight team in Kano, Nigeria and played a key role in John Glenn's historic space flight in the Friendship 7 (1962).
  • Edward J. Dwight was nominated for the astronaut program, but was passed over when the final selection was made (1963).
  • The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Marlon D. Green in the case "Green v Continental Airlines" regarding the refusal of his employment due to race, winning the right for Black Americans to be hired at airlines in the U.S. (1963).
  • Marlon D. Green became the first Black American pilot hired by a major U.S. passenger airline (1964).
  • Captain David E. Harris became one of the first Black pilots to be employed by a major airline when he joined American Airlines (1964).
  • Joan Dorsey became the first Black American flight attendant hired to work for American Airlines (1964).
  • Negro Airmen International, Inc. (NAI) was launched by a group headed by Edward A. Gibbs, Leslie Norris, Horace Noble, William Broadwater, Ulysses "Rip" Gooch, and C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson (1967).
  • Major Robert H. Lawrence, Jr. became first Black American astronaut, though never made it to space (1967).


  • Robert Ashby was the only Tuskegee Airman to become a pilot for a regularly scheduled commercial airline (1973).
  • Captain Lloyd Newton became the first Black American pilot to join the elite U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds (1974).
  • Black Flight Attendants of America, a service organization whose goal is to promote careers in aviation as well as celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of Black Americans in aviation, was created (1974).
  • General Daniel "Chappie" James, a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force and combat veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars became the first Black four-star general (1975).
  • The Organization of Black Airline Pilots was established to help motivate youth to participate in aviation through exposure, training, mentoring, and scholarships (1976).
  • Jill E. Brown Hiltz became the first Black American female pilot for a major airline (1978).
  • Second Lieutenant Marcella A. Hayes became the first Black female pilot in the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • Frank E. Petersen became the first Black U.S. Marine Corps general (1979).


  • Guion S. Bluford Jr. became first Black American astronaut to enter space (1983).
  • Barrington Irving became the first Black American, first Jamaican-Born, and then-youngest person to fly solo around the world (1986).
  • Dr. Mae C. Jemison became the first Black American female astronaut (1988).


  • Captain Patrice Clark-Washington became the first Black American female captain for a major airline and was one of the first black women to graduate from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida (1994).
  • The Bessie Coleman Foundation was established by a group of Black American female pilots, and other Black aviation professionals and enthusiasts (1995).


  • Daniel James III, son of General "Chappie" James, became the first Black director of the U.S. Air National Guard (2002).
  • Kenny Roy became the youngest Black American pilot licensed to fly a plane solo, at age 14 (2004).
  • Lieutenant Jeanine McIntosh Menze became the first Black American female pilot in the U.S. Coast Guard (2005).
  • Atlantic Southeast Airlines had the first all-Black American female crew (2009).
  • Charles F. Bolden was appointed the head of NASA by President Obama (2009).
  • Kimberly Anyadike became the youngest Black American female to fly cross-country at age 15 (2009).

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San Diego Air & Space Museum

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