A Moment in Black History – Flight Attendants

Journalist and nurse Ruth Carol Taylor became the first African American airline flight attendant in the United States when she joined Mohawk Airlines in 1958.

However it was Patricia Banks who paved the way. After graduating from Grace Downs Air Career School in 1956 pursued a career as a flight attendant and was repeatedly denied employment by several airlines for such reasons as age, poor eyesight and the need for dental work.

During a subsequent interview with Capital Airlines, the head flight attendant finally told Ms. Banks that they did not hire Negroes as flight attendants. With the support of Representative Adam Clayton Powell, Ms. Banks filed a complaint against TWA, Mohawk and Capital Airlines with the New York State Commission Against Discrimination. In 1960, they ruled in favor of Ms. Banks and ordered Capital Airlines to hire her within 30 days.

Capital Airlines appealed the decision on the basis of jurisdiction stating they are registered in Washington, DC. The New York State Commission advising Capital Airlines that since they operate and hire in New York city they have jurisdiction and therefore the order stands.

Ja’Vonne’s Travel Minute