While Bessie Coleman never realized her dream of opening a flight school for African American pilots, her legacy as the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license has impacted and inspired flight students for decades.
Today, like many of you, we’re celebrating International Women’s Day. Women around the world have meaningfully contributed to the aerospace industry, from groundbreaking research to daring flights. Here are just a few of those inspiring women.
Having watched the first humans rise into the air, Benjamin Franklin predicted that the new invention would have considerable military value, enabling an aerial view of an enemy’s army for “conveying intelligence into, or out of, a besieged town, giving signals to distant places, or the like.”
In 1939, Dale L. White Sr., a prominent African American pilot, set out on a "Goodwill Flight" from Chicago to Washington, DC, to make the case for African American participation in flight training, both civilian and military. His flight illustrated the challenges that African Americans faced in reaching equality—White was welcomed in Sherwood, Ohio, but was not permitted to land in Morgantown, West Virginia. Nearly 10 years later In 1948, President Truman integrated the armed services by presidential order.
Airports. How much have you thought about airports? The anthropologist Marc Augé describes airports as “non-places” where travelers, despite location, encounter the same stores, chain restaurants, and security procedures. Museum Curator Jennifer Van Vleck disagrees. To her, despite their anonymous character, there is no other public place in which so many emotions are openly displayed—the joy of a great adventure, the sadness of saying farewell, or even the anxiety of moving.
What made the balloon such a key graphic element in political and social satire for over one century? Was it the bulbous shape, or the fact that balloons are wayward craft that tend to go where the wind blows, in spite of the aeronaut’s best efforts? Whatever the reason, the great comic artists of the 18th and 19th century turned to the balloon time and time again in order to poke fun at people and events. The meaning of many of the political satires, the inside joke, is often lost on us today. If any of our friends out there can enlighten us as to the story behind one of these mysteries, we welcome the assistance!
On April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I, setting America on a course to become an important player on the world stage. It was a turning point in the nation’s history that still reverberates through world events a century later. One of the Museum’s most engaging programs in observance of the hundredth anniversary of the First World War is Hollywood Goes to War: World War I on the Big Screen, a year-long film series showing Hollywood’s finest feature films on World War I.
No celebration in 19th century France was complete without a balloon in the weeks and months following its invention. A balloon ascent had the power to gather crowds of delighted spectators eager to see something they had never seen before. This balloon craze was satirized and documented in prints and engravings from the time.
On this day in 1957, Perry Young Jr. became the first African American pilot to fly a regularly scheduled passenger route for a U.S. airline. The press and community leaders hailed the flight as a significant step forward on the path to desegregation. For Young, it marked a professional milestone after years of persistence in the face of discrimination.
On Sunday, February 5, Super Bowl LI television broadcasts will feature aerial images of NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Snoopy One may not have been hovering over Baltimore Stadium (also called Venable Stadium) for the 1922 Army-Marine football game, but photographer H.C. Robinson captured an aerial photograph of the stadium’s inaugural event from 549 meters (1,800 feet) above.
Intrepid men and women who earned their livelihoods in the sky—the aeronauts—emerged as well-known public figures during the 19th century. They were a new breed of aerial showmen, capturing headlines with spectacular ascents and long distance voyages. The Italian Vincenzo Lunardi, Englishmen James Sadler and Charles Green, and the American Thaddeus S. C. Lowe were among the best-known members of this new profession.