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Air Zoo Blog

Category: Black History Month

(Almost) the First Black Astronaut

In 1958, the new National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) chose the first astronaut recruits from among U.S. military test pilots. President John F. Kennedy wanted one of those recruits to be a black male pilot. Enter test pilot Edward “Ed” J. Dwight Jr., who became the first black candidate to compete for the astronaut corps in 1962. The U.S. Air Force captain arrived with two-thousand logged miles and impressive credentials. Many supported Ed, including the... Read More
at Thursday, Jan 26, 2023
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Stitching Up Romance at the Tuskegee Institute

When America entered World War II (1939-1945) in 1941, the U.S. Army Air Corps (today’s U.S. Air Force) remained segregated. But the need for skilled pilots drove a wise decision that resulted in the Tuskegee Airmen: Black pilots who risked their lives for their country and helped crumble armed forces racial segregation. These pilots answered the recruitment call and trained at the new air base at Tuskegee, Alabama. They flew with the 99th Fighter Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group in... Read More
Posted by Nikki Statler at Tuesday, Feb 1, 2022
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Honoring Black History Month at the Air Zoo - Mae Jemison

Mae C. Jemison   Born in Decatur Alabama in 1956, Mae Jemison moved with her family to Chicago, Illinois at age 3. As a child, Mae loved to dance and could be found in her school library in the science section thumbing through books about astronomy. While she watched and took interest in the news and broadcasts surrounding NASA’s Apollo Space Program, Mae felt disappointed by the absence of women astronauts. Mae appreciated what she saw in the role... Read More
at Monday, Feb 1, 2021
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Honoring Black History Month at the Air Zoo - Willa Brown

Willa Brown   Willa Beatrice Brown (1906-1992) made history two years in a row as the first black woman in America to earn a pilot’s license in 1938, immediately followed by a commercial flight license in 1939. She also made history when she became the first black woman commissioned as a U.S. Civil Air Patrol lieutenant in Illinois. Her ambitions also led Willa to run for office, which made her the first black woman to run for United States... Read More
at Monday, Feb 1, 2021
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Honoring Black History Month at the Air Zoo - Ida Van Smith

Ida Van Smith (1917-2003)  Born in Lumberton, North Carolina, Ida Van Smith taught history and special education in New York City Public Schools after pursuing her undergraduate degree from Shaw University and her master’s degree from Queens College.   In 1967, Ida made a dream come true at age 50 when she learned to fly! She applied her gift of teaching skills to aviation when she earned both her private pilot’s license and instructor... Read More
Posted by Nikki Statler at Monday, Feb 1, 2021
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Honoring Black History Month at the Air Zoo - Robert Clare Chandler

From Michigan to Tuskegee to Local Hero  Let's kick things off with Michigan’s Robert Clare Chandler (1922-2004). Clare earned his wings through the experimental black pilots’ program at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute. Some expected the program to fail, but the Tuskegee program proved successful. Clare served as part of that success.   One of five children born and raised in Allegan, Clare found his... Read More
at Monday, Feb 1, 2021
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