Unless you make available Flying Free: America's First Black Aviators, students probably will not learn much about these intrepid adventurers who became pilots in the face of inflexible opposition: Few aviation histories mention their names. They are men and women worth reading about, whether or not flight is on your agenda, for these accounts of their determination, resourcefulness, and refusal to give up are inspirational. Black-and-white archival photographs illustrate the book.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-- Flying an airplane in the '20s and '30s was always a risky adventure because of bad weather, poor machinery; and lack of airports, instruments, and accurate maps. One group of fliers faced yet another problem--racial discrimination. Hart eloquently documents the lives of America's pioneer black aviators. Always overshadowed by the feats of Charles Lindburgh, Amelia Earhart, Wiley Post, and other white fliers, they had to work hard against seemingly overwhelming odds to achieve their dreams. The author successfully fills the gaps in the historical record, from the early, all-black, air circuses in Los Angeles to individuals, such as Marion D. Green, who won a court battle to become a commercial pilot in 1965; and Colonel Guion S. Bluford, Jr., Vietnam War veteran and the first black astronaut. Four stand-outs in the field are featured: Bessie Coleman, William J. Powell, James Herman Banning, and Hubert Julian. This well-written account, with quotes from personal and newspaper interviews and historic photographs, brings these inspiring stories to life. --Eunice Weech, M. L. King Elementary School, Urbana, IL
In the 1920s and 1930s, when air travel was in its infancy, blacks as well as whites were attracted by the adventure and excitement of the new technology. Aviation pioneers like Bessie Coleman and William Powell loved the sensation of flying, but they also saw an opportunity for blacks to get in on the ground floor of a new industry. Their skills may have been equal to those of Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, but they were unable to obtain the financial backing needed for the cross-country and around-the-world flights that brought in more funds and more offers. Simply finding anyone willing to instruct them was often an overwhelming problem. Hart chronicles the contributions of some of those who succeeded against all odds in becoming aerial performers, combat pilots, and aviation instructors. He tells about Hubert Julian, who loved publicity as much as he loved flying, and Benjamin O. Davis, who trained and commanded a black squadron in World War II that demonstrated the ability of the black pilots, which led to an integrated corps. Vintage black-and-white photographs are used effectively to complement the text.