Visit the National Model Aviation throughout the month of February to learn more about the history of African Americans in aviation and celebrate Black History Month. The museum will host “Black Wings: American Dreams of Flight”—a Smithsonian traveling exhibition—to honor the history of African Americans in flight, as well as a speaker series on February 10, 2018. The exhibition will open at the National Model Aviation Museum in Muncie, Ind., on February 1, 2018, and will be on view through the month of February in honor of Black History Month.
The Wright brothers signaled the arrival of the new air age with their historic flight in 1903, they sparked America’s new fascination with and exploration of flight. And while many African Americans were enthusiastic about flight, they still faced racial discrimination and were denied access to formal training as pilots and mechanics. The Smithsonian traveling exhibition “Black Wings: American Dreams of Flight” chronicles the powerful group of aviation proponents who challenged these obstacles and created their own legacy in the world of flight.
“Black Wings” will open at the National Model Aviation Museum in Muncie, Ind., on February 1, 2018, and will be on view through the month of February in honor of Black History Month. Developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, the exhibition was made possible by the generous support of the MetLife Foundation.
On February 10, 2018, the National Model Aviation Museum will host a special speaker series featuring members of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) who will be sharing their experiences in the aviation industry. Returning panelists include Captain Albert Glenn (OBAP) and John Graham (FedEx), and joining them will be A.C. Glenn (F3A Team USA). The discussion will begin at 1 p.m. inside the gallery of the National Model Aviation Museum. Admission to the panel discussion and the museum will be free of charge for members of the community. This event is presented in partnership with the YWCA of Muncie and the Muncie Chapter of the Indiana Black Expo, Inc.
This exhibition chronicles some of the most important black figures from the past and present who helped make the dream of careers in flight and space exploration possible, including Bessie Coleman, a young African American woman who desired to fly but whose race prevented her from doing so in the U.S. To combat this injustice, Coleman went to France to learn to fly. Another important figure, William J. Powell, led an ambitious program to promote aviation by establishing the Bessie Coleman Flying Club and later sponsored the first all-black air show in Los Angeles in the late 1930s. These are people who shaped the lasting legacy African Americans would forever leave on aviation.
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. Figures whose contributions are explored 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.
The exhibition is based on the book “Black Wings: Courageous Stories of African Americans in Aviation and Space History” (HarperCollins, 2008) by exhibition curator Von Hardesty of the National Air and Space Museum.
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum maintains the largest collection of historic air and spacecraft in the world, is a vital center for research into the history, science, and technology of aviation and space flight, and memorializes the national development of aviation and space flight. Learn more online, airandspace.si.edu.
SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 65 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at sites.si.edu.
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