Magazine article USA TODAY

"Black Wings": Soaring to New Heights

Magazine article USA TODAY

"Black Wings": Soaring to New Heights

Article excerpt

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The Wright brothers signaled the arrival of the new air age when they flew a plane on a 12-second flight in December 1903 at Kitty Hawk, N.C. It was the beginning of the U.S's new fascination with--and exploration of--flight. While many African-Americans were enthusiastic about flight, they still faced racial discrimination and were denied access to formal training as pilots and mechanics. A powerful group of aviation proponents emerged to challenge these obstacles and create their own legacy. "Black Wings: American Dreams of Flight" chronicles this group of dedicated individuals.

This exhibition highlights some of the most important black figures from the past and present who helped make the dream of careers in flight and space exploration possible, including Bessie Coleman, a young black woman who wanted to fly, but whose race prevented her from doing so in the U.S. To combat this injustice, she went to France to learn her craft. "The air is the only place free from prejudices," Coleman once said.

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Another important figure, William J. Powell, led an ambitious program to promote aviation by establishing the Bessie Coleman Flying Club and later sponsored the first all-black air show in Los Angeles, Calif. …

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