Janet Harmon Waterford Bragg
(born Jane Nettie Harmon)
March 24, 1907 — April 11, 1993

Janet Harmon Bragg is one of the first female black aviators and the first to hold a commercial pilot’s license. She faced adversity nearly all her life not only because she was black but also because she was a woman.

Bragg was born March 24, 1907, in Griffin, Ga. She pursued a nursing degree at Spellman College in Atlanta, where she qualified as a registered nurse in 1929 before she moved to Chicago to work. Bragg had always been interested in learning to fly, and in 1933, she became the only woman in her class when she enrolled at Aeronautical University in Chicago.

Bragg became the first black woman to enroll in the Curtiss Wright School of Aeronautics in Chicago. In 1933 Janet (then Waterford) enrolled at Aeronautical University, a segregated black aviation school managed by John C. Robinson and Cornelius Coffey. She was the only woman in a class with 24 black men. In 1934 she provided $600 of her own money to buy the school’s first airplane, and helped in building the school’s own airfield in Robbins, Illinois. In the summer she learnt flying and obtained her private pilot’s license. In 1943 she applied to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program. When she went in for an interview, Ethel Sheehy, assistant to the head of WASP, denied her an interview because she was black. A few weeks later, she received a rejection letter from Jacqueline Cochran, head of WASP, for the same reason. Her application to the military nurse corps was rejected, also on racial grounds. She then travelled to a flight school in Tuskegee, Alabama, and completed the Civilian Pilot Training Program. She was denied a pilot’s license in Alabama, for being a “colored girl”, but managed to receive a license at Pal-Waukee Field, Illinois.

Bragg was involved in the inception of the National Association of American Airmen, designed to represent the nascent profession to the government.

Source: Wikipedia

To learn more about Bragg, visit the Smithsonian Institution Archives and view an interview with her. Bragg’s autobiography, Soaring Above Setbacks: The Autobiography of Janet Harmon Bragg, African American Aviator, was published by the Smithsonian Institution Press in 1996.

 

Share:

More Posts

Quentin P. Smith

Quentin P. Smith 1919 – January 15, 2013 Class: 45-A-TE Graduation Date: 3/11/1945 Unit: 477th Bombardier Group Service # 0841274   They flew 1,578 missions in the European and Mediterranean theaters of operations and 15,533

Read More »

James Shipley

James Lloyd Shipley June 28, 1923 – July 21 2022 SO 338 20 Dec 43 Selfridge Unit: Mechanic with the 332nd fighter group He was proud to say that all of the pilots of the planes he

Read More »

Charles W. Tate

Charles W. Tate October 18, 1922 – November 18, 2005 Class: 43-H-SE Graduation Date: 8/30/1943 Unit: 99th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group Service # 0811290 Charles Tate was from Manchester, PA and graduated

Read More »

Kate Lee Harris Adams

Kate Lee Harris Adams September 5, 1919 – December 2, 2002 Class: 44-W-2 Training Location: Avenger Field (Sweetwater, Tex.) Planes flown: PT-17, BT-13, AT-6, P-40 Assigned bases: Napier Army Air Base (Dothan, Ala.) Adams was

Read More »

Send Us A Message