SOARING ABOVE SETBACKS
Marjorie M. Kriz
Smithsonian, Mar 17, 1996 - Technology & Engineering - 120 pages
When Americans fell in love with aviation in the 1920s and 1930s, African Americans found their enthusiasm met with discrimination. In 1920 the legendary Bessie Coleman was forced to travel to France to learn to fly because no American flight schools would accept her. Ten years later, Janet Harmon Bragg and other black students at Chicago's Aeronautical University fought exclusion by organizing a club that built its own airport in a nearby all-black community. By 1934 Bragg had earned her private pilot's license and bought her first plane. By 1942 she had become the first African American woman to earn a full commercial pilot's license.
In Soaring above Setbacks, Janet Harmon Bragg recalls a life of multifaceted achievement, in which every obstacle was seen as a surmountable challenge. A 1929 graduate of Spelman College with a degree in nursing, she not only became a pioneering aviator but also a successful businesswoman, running two nursing homes on Chicago's South Side. But her stiffest challenges and most remarkable accomplishments occurred in the sky. When the early federal Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) specifically excluded African Americans, she and other black pilots founded the National Airmen's Association of America in 1939, successfully challenging the whites-only rule. When she was rejected by the Women's Auxiliary Service Pilots because of her race, she enrolled in a program at Tuskegee Institute. And when, on completing it, an examiner who praised her skills said "I've never given a colored girl a commercial license and I don't intend to now," she returned to Chicago, where she immediately reapplied and passed.
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The Civilian Pilot Training Program
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