Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
Black Wings
Black Wings

Black Wings

The invention of the airplane sparked a revolution in modern technology. In the popular mind, the new air age became associated with adventure and heroism. African Americans shared the widespread enthusiasm for flying, but they found themselves routinely denied access to training as pilots and mechanics.

Beginning in the 1920s, a small number of determined black air enthusiasts challenged racial descrimination. With great effort — and against formidable odds — they realized their dream to fly.

Headwinds

Bessie Coleman
Bessie Coleman became one of the first African Americans to earn a pilot's license and to seek a career in aviation. Learn more about early pioneers.

Tuskegee Airmen

Benjamin O. Davis Jr. Collection
Benjamin O. Davis Jr. led the Tuskegee airmen during World War II in air combat over North Africa and Italy and long-range bomber escort missions over Nazi Germany. Learn more about the Tuskegee airmen.

Modern Era

Guy Bluford
Guion "Guy" Bluford was the first African American to participate fully as a member of the NASA astronaut corps. Learn more about modern era pioneers.