Breaking Down Barriers

As with any social change, acceptance of blacks in aviation jobs was slow. Pushed by the justice system and various civil rights organizations, over time, beginning near the end of the 1950s, African Americans were allowed entry into coveted commercial airline positions, with a few pioneers leading the way. They were men and women who had prepared themselves for these opportunities through training and education, and who had the courage to be among the first to enter what was sometimes hostile territory.

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Marlene White
In 1959, a black applicant for a flight attendant position filed a discrimination complaint against a major airline with the Michigan Fair Employment Practices Commission. Four years later and with the help of Congressmen Robert Nix and Charles Diggs, the Commission ruled in favor of Marlene White and directed the airline to hire her upon the satisfactory completion of stewardess training. Shortly after, The National Urban League, a civil rights organization began seeking applicants for flight attendant positions on behalf of two major airlines.

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