This Day in Black History: Feb. 11, 1958

Ruth Carol Taylor becomes the nation's first African-American flight attendant.

Posted: 02/11/2013 08:00 AM EST

(Photo: Public Domain)

Ruth Carol Taylor broke a significant racial barrier during her maiden flight as the nation's first African-American flight attendant on Feb. 11, 1958, on Mohawk Airlines.

Before she became a stewardess, as they were known back then,Taylor worked as a nurse, following in the footsteps of her mother.

The Boston native and graduate of the Bellevue School of Nursing initially applied to work for Trans World Airline, or TWA, but after being rejected by the international airline, she filed a complaint with the New York State Commission on Discrimination.

But while TWA wasn't ready to break the color line, the regional carrier Mohawk Airlines was, and Taylor applied for the position. In December 1957, she was chosen among 800 Black applicants.

Being a stewardess wasn't a long-term aspiration for Taylor, but she wanted to make a point. Three months after Mohawk hired her, TWA hired its first Black flight attendant, Margaret Grant. However, six months after making history, Taylor was forced to resign because she had married, which was against an airline rule that mandated that flight attendants be single.

Taylor made history again when she founded the first professional nursing journal in Barbados. After moving to New York in 1977 to work as a nurse, she co-founded the Institute for Racial Harmony. In 1985, she wrote The Little Black Book: Black Male Survival Guide in America for Young African-American Men.

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