Black Wings: American Dreams of Flight chronicles the story of African Americans who, despite facing tremendous racial barriers, attained amazing achievements in aviation history. Visitors will explore these stories through documents, photographs, and multimedia. Additionally, several stories and artifacts from local Tuskegee Airmen will be on exhibit to highlight the many Black heroes in our community.
Presented by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Black Wings examines the contributions of some of the most important African American aviators from the past and present who helped make the dream of careers in flight and space exploration possible.
Two of the many figures presented in the exhibition are Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to obtain her pilot’s license, and aviator William J. Powell who led an ambitious program to promote aviation in African American community. Divided into six sections, “Black Wings” chronicles the evolution of aviation through the stories of African Americans who dreamed of flight, left their mark, and helped pave the way for those who would follow.
Other aviators whose contributions are explored in the exhibit include the Tuskegee Airmen, the first military division of African American pilots who fought in World War II, and Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to fly in space. This exhibition is based on the book Black Wings: Courageous Stories of African Americans in Aviation and Space History (HarperCollins 2008), written by exhibition curator Von Hardesty of the National Air and Space Museum.