Black History Now 2021

PACC Early Aviators Charles Wesley Peters

Charles Peete in his Merrimacs uniform in 1953. Portsmouth Public Library.

Prior to World War II, opportunities in aviation and the dream of flight evolved separately for Blacks than it did for Whites. Due to segregation, lack of planes and access to aeronautical schools, aviation would take a great deal of effort on their part to achieve.

At the turn of the 20th Century, powered flight was in its infancy. The first successful recorded flight was made by the Wright Brothers at Kill Devil Hills, NC in 1903. In 1911, just eight years later Charles Wesley Peters, an African-American, born in Virginia (1889) and living in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania flew a plane of his own design and construction at the Georgia Negro State Fair. The event was recorded by the Macon Daily Telegraph and Pittsburg Dispatch, headed: “Negro Aviator to Fly … Pittsburgher will Entertain Colored Fair in Georgia,” dated September 26, 1911.

For more information on African-American achievements in flight, visit our online exhibit at, entry by GE Barbour, p 97-98

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