The story of America’s early black aviators from the 1920s and 1930s has been one of the neglected themes in American aviation history. My interest in this topic began with research into family history. My mother’s uncle, J. Herman Banning, was a pioneer black aviator during this nation’s Golden Age of Aviation. I remember my mother, aunt, and grandmother talking about J. Herman Banning back when I was little, and in my teenage years I tried to find out more than I had learned from these family stories and photographs, but it was difficult for me to locate any information about Banning or any of his peers from the usual sources. As I continued my education I continued to pursue the history of Banning and other blacks from this era, but the process proved to be very discouraging. It was not until the late 1970s, when I found out that the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum was thinking of organizing an exhibit on America’s early black aviators, that I became optimistic.



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