Thursday, October 02, 2014

Documentary Spotlight: Black Wings

Photo source: PBS
Recently I was given the opportunity to see a wonderful documentary called Black Wings, which features the stories of African-American men and women during the 20th century who made their mark in history and pursued their dreams of flying. They were up against many, many obstacles, but they persevered and were able to achieve a lot despite every barrier that was thrown up against them. The documentary features men and women from different places across America and does a beautiful job of weaving together the stories of those who are flying now with those who paved the way. It's a very important history lesson about a chapter of aviation history that sadly I was not taught in school. That is why I'm glad that this film exists and is being shown on television so that everyone, especially young people can get a fuller sense of the contributions of African-Americans in the field of aviation.

One thing that I found intriguing was the drive and determination that these men and women showed. It's very evident that each of them had a passion about flying that could not be squelched. I went into watching this film with some knowledge of a few of those featured, such as Bessie Coleman and the Tuskegee Airmen due to my own independent study over the years. However, there were some who I learned about for the first time and I plan to find out more about them all.
Above: Bessie Coleman - Photo source: National Air & Space Museum

Bessie Coleman was amazing. She was the first black woman to earn a pilot's license and the first black person in the world to earn an international pilot's license. No one would train her to fly in the United States, so she taught herself French, went to France, and earned her license in 1921. Her tenacity has always been inspirational to me every since I learned about her several years ago. She returned to the United States as a pilot and grew an amazing legacy that continues.

Above: Tuskegee Airmen - Photo source:

Others who are featured include the Tuskegee Airmen who played a huge role in the breaking down of barriers for African-American pilots during World War II. Their role in history, not just aviation history, was a giant step in American history. Their excellence proved a point that black people were very capable of flying and doing everything else.

Even though the Tuskegee Airmen played a major role in the eventual integration of the military, there was still a racial barrier against African-Americans flying for commercial airlines. In the documentary we are presented with the story of Marlon Green, who was denied a job even though he was well-qualified. The film follows his case that he took all the way to the Supreme Court.

Above: Jesse Brown - Photo Source: PBS

There is also the story of Jesse Brown, who was the first African-American aviator in the U.S. Navy and who served during the Korean War. He was a man of great perseverance just like all of the other men and women who were featured in Black Wings.

There is so much to learn in this great documentary. The stories that I've highlighted are just a few from the list of those in the film. This is definitely a documentary worth watching again and again. I know that I will do so, because every so often in life we all need a reminder that we must keep going in order to reach our goals.

Black Wings will be shown tonight, October 2nd on PBS America in the UK at 9pm and will be shown at various times on Friday, October 3rd through Sunday, October 5th on Sky channel 534 and Virgin Media 243.

 *Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this film for review. I received no compensation. All opinions are mine.

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