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Segregated Skies: David Harris's Trailblazing Journey to Rise Above Racial Barriers

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After years of flying B-52 bombers in the United States Air Force, David Harris applied to be a pilot for commercial airliners, an opportunity no other African American before him--not even the famed Tuskegee Airmen--had ever been afforded. After receiving rejection after rejection, he finally signed on with American Airlines in 1964. But this success was just the beginning of another uphill battle for equal treatment. It was the height of the civil rights movement, a time of massive protests as people struggled to end racial segregation and give black people equal rights. As a light-skinned, light-eyed black man, many at the time said David could have "passed" for white. But he didn't do that. Instead, he made the bold decision to disclose his race to his employers and fellow airmen. He thought he had experienced discrimination before. But it was about to get a whole lot worse.
This gripping narrative follows Harris's turbulent path to become the first African American commercial airline pilot in the U.S., presented against the backdrop of race riots, landmark civil rights legislation, and the lingering racial injustice of the 1960s. It's the story of a man who fought social injustice the only way he knew how-by succeeding.

128 pages, Library Binding

Published December 21, 2021

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About the author

Michael H. Cottman

8 books13 followers
MICHAEL H. COTTMAN, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and author, is a former political reporter for the WashingtonPost. Cottman has appeared on National Public Radio's (NPR) "Tell Me More" with Michel Martin and also the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2000 to discuss his (adult) book The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie. Cottman also serves as a special consultant to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for a national, multimedia project, "Voyage to Discovery," an education initiative that focuses on the African-American contribution to the maritime industry spanning 300 years and efforts to teach students of color about careers in marine biology and oceanography.

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Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 reviews
Profile Image for Almira.
576 reviews2 followers
February 26, 2022
Although this is written for middle school age and up, it is a book that adults should read as well.

Growing up as a dependent of an Air Force officer during the '50's and '60's, I had no major interactions with people of color. That was a shame, as it would have been better for everyone in the service at that time.

David Harris is a real Hero ---- even though he was treated badly throughout his Air Force career, he always walked the "better" road, even when those around him treated him badly and used the "n" word or worse.
Making the decision to leave the Air Force, to become a commercial airline pilot, was not made lightly, however, at that time there were no African American commercial airline pilots, David believed that someone needed to step up and become the first.
And he was up for the challenge
On every application he always stated that he was African American --- consequently, he was turned down by every major American based airline, UNTIL American Airlines hired him.

Profile Image for Desiree.
1,134 reviews22 followers
March 7, 2022
David Harris went to the Ohio State University, joined the ROTC and became the first African American man to be a pilot for a commercial airline. He did all of this with the threat of the cold war, Emmet Till's murder, and Jim Crow sanctions hanging over his head. Reader's learn what it feels like to be on call for a country that doesn't consider you a full citizen. It is a quick and accessible read for middle grade students.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
83 reviews
March 10, 2022
A story that reads more like a lengthy article than a book, the inspiring telling of a trailblazing African American in the aviation industry. The book describes some of the racism faced by David Harris during the 1950’s and 60’s particularly, as he persevered to become the first black commercial airline pilot in the US. His story is incredibly inspiring, as well as tragic, in that he had to face so much adversity just because of the color of his skin.

I’m glad to now know of David Harris.
2,709 reviews14 followers
April 7, 2022
Excellent biography of David Harris, who became the first African-American commercial pilot in the United States. The target audience for this book is children about nine to twelve, so some concepts are explained very simply; but it covers Harris's career in detail, and the agonies he often faced as he fought (mostly silently) against segregation and racism. Recommended.
Profile Image for Leigh.
605 reviews6 followers
May 9, 2022
Intersection of 2 (very different) topics of interest to me: racism and flying.
Good one to pair with: Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation
Profile Image for Kris Stratton.
82 reviews
August 8, 2023
A fascinating story of David Harris’s trailblazing journey. Can’t wait to share with my middle schoolers
Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 reviews

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