Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Black History Month - First Black Pilot and Pittsburgh

More transit musings are coalescing in my head, but this has gotten too emotional. My own fault I suppose. That and I have heard from many with insightful comments that are not part of the public debate. I will try and pull some of that together in a few days. I think this debate will not be over by then.

Here are some contributions for Black History Month. I don't see this mentioned elsewhere, but there is an exhibition of historical photos from the Pittsburgh Courier at the Renaissance Hotel downtown.

Also I see little written about the unheralded Charles Wesley Peters who grew up in Pittsburgh and who is reported to have been the first black to pilot a heavier-than-air craft in 1911. He is also said to be the first African American to actually build an airplane... his skills practiced by making man-carrying gliders he tested himself flying off of Herron Hill. When I was a kid I remember my neighbor Joe strapping plywood to his bike somehow and flying down Edmond street in some hope of taking off before hitting Juniper St. I don't recall it working, but Peters must have had more success.

Something else that is mostly lost in the history. Several Pittsburghers would become Tuskegee airmen in World War II, but the very first African American combat ace could have been James Lincoln Holt Peck of Sewickly who supposedly joined the Spanish government in the Spanish Civil War as a pursuit pilot and ended that conflict with 5 kills. He would be named an ace by the American Aces Society though there seems to be some debate over the veracity of his aviation experiences in Spain.

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