Every February, Black History Month evokes a few iconic
names in aviation, most notably the Tuskegee Airmen
of World War II fame
and Bessie Coleman
, the first black woman
The many Tuskegee Airmen and Coleman make great role models
for us all. When the sky beckoned, they refused to allow
segregation and bigotry to keep them from answering. They
destroyed myths and broke down barriers to opportunity.
But let's not dwell on past successes to the point that we
ignore what's happening — or not happening — today.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the black population in 2005
million, or 13.4 percent. The 2006 female population
(of all races)
was 152 million, or more than half the population.
But what are the percentages of minorities and females with
According to Women in Aviation International
, only 6
percent of all U.S. pilots with commercial ratings in
2005 were female. Less than 4 percent of pilots with
airline ratings were women.
The percentages of blacks and other minorities among U.S.
pilots are so low it's hard to find meaningful statistics.
A 1997 National Academies report, "Taking Flight: Education and Training for
found 92 percent of U.S. airline
pilots in 1990 were white men, compared with 43
percent in the civilian labor force. Less than 2
percent were black and less than 3 percent hispanic.
What Bessie Colemen, the Tuskegee Airmen and others started
decades ago remains unfinished. Minorities and women are
woefully underrepresented in America's sky.
In 2007, Sinclair Community College
took announced the creation of an aviation scholarship program
African American students. The scholarship is named
for the late Dr. Lewis A. Jackson, a pioneering Ohio
airman and educator.
Born in Angola, IN on Dec. 29, 1912, Dr. Jackson had a
passion for aviation from childhood. According to a
attributed to his widow, Dr. Violet Jackson, he
learned to fly in the early 1930s and barnstormed across
Indiana and Ohio from 1932 to 1939, earning money for
college. He earned a bachelor's degree in education from
Indiana Wesleyan University in 1939.
Dr. Jackson taught public school while continuing his
aviation activities. He joined Cornelius
in Chicago, where Coffey opened a flying school
on Harlem Field, a segregated airport. He undertook
additional training — including aircraft mechanics — at
different places around the country before moving to
Tuskegee, Alabama, to be director of training at the Army
Air Force 66th Flight Training Detachment at
— the primary flight training site for the
famous Tuskegee Airmen.
After World War II, Jackson moved to Ohio, where he worked
as a federal flight examiner for 13 years. He earned a
master's degree from Miami University in 1948, and a Ph.D.
in higher education from Ohio State University in 1950. He
held many positions at Central State University
Wilberforce, including acting president. In 1974, he
fostered the Business Entrepreneur Program at Sinclair
A lifelong pursuit was designing a "roadable" airplane
. Dr. Jackson was a
member of the Experimental Aircraft Association in
Greene County and a member of the county airport
Dr. Jackson's legacy lives on. His family made a major
donation to Indiana Wesleyan for a library
, which bears his name today.
Also named for him is the Greene County Lewis A Jackson Regional
More aviation scholarships and programs
American Historical Association
Fellowships in aerospace history
Astronaut Scholarship Foundation
Scholarships in science and engineering
ATCA Scholarships Program
Air Traffic Control Association
Aviation Scholarship Foundation
(Program ended in 2007; link for reference only) Flight
training scholarships for teens in Illinois and Indiana
Louisiana Tech listing of aviation scholarships, some
specifically for African-Americans
Links to various aviation scholarship programs
Federal Aviation Administration
Links to many scholarships and grant programs, some for
minorities and women, in aviation and other fields
Lewis A. Jackson Aviation
Scholarship established by Jackson's family
Texas Space Grant Consortium
Scholarships and fellowships for students attending TSGC
Women in Aviation International
Information about scholarships available to WAI members
Dr. Lewis A. Jackson (1912-1994)