History center celebrates first African-American flier

February 12, 2016 Commentary, Letters to the Editor Print Print
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Letter to the editor | Herman Manning, the first African-American to fly and the first to fly coast to coast, to be featured on film

To the Editor:
The Oklahoma History Center will present a film documentary on James Herman Banning, the first African-American to be licensed to fly and  the first African-American to fly the United States coast-to-coast.
The film will be presented at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13.
Pat Smith, one of the creators of the film and co-writer of the book “On Freedom’s Wings,” will be present to answer questions and discuss the traveling exhibit associated with Mr. Banning.
James Herman Banning was born on an Oklahoma homestead in 1899.
When he was 6 years old, one of his pastimes was flying homemade kites.
At approximately the same time, the Wright brothers were preparing for their first flight at Kitty Hawk.
As he grew up, Banning knew that his destiny included flying.  However, the racial attitude of the times prevented him from being allowed into any flying school. After piecing parts of wrecked and retired planes together, Banning finally was able to venture into the skies. Overcoming the racial and financial barriers, his goal of being the first African-American to be licensed by the Department of Commerce and flying the “crate” from coast-to coast would soon become a reality.
The film and the traveling exhibit, called “The Greatest Story Never Told: A Living History,” were produced last year from Oklahoma Humanities Council funding.  More recently, Lonnie Bunch, Director of Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, expressed that his museum would be using this project and linking the Banning website to theirs.
More details on this pioneering aviator at    http://jhbanning.com/on-freedoms-wings

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