Learning Center Our Enshrinees

Willa Brown

  • American aviator and civil rights leader Brown was the first African American female to obtain her pilot’s and commercial pilot’s licenses in the late 1930s.
  • She attended the Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical University in Chicago to obtain an aviation maintenance license. One of the first women to do so in the 1930s.
  • Began a brief political career before the Second World War, lobbying the American government for desegregated armed forces, particularly the then Army Air Corps.
  • Notoriously stormed into the office of the Chicago Tribune and pitched for the advertising of an all-African American airshow at Chicago’s Harlem Field. The event was a success and showcased the talents of many Chicago African American aviators.
  • Became an active trainer for the Tuskegee airmen during the Second World War. With her dedication and service, Brown trained over 200+ pilots during the war.
  • Post-war, ran as a candidate in the Illinois primary. Although she was defeated twice, Brown never lost her passion for improving the lives of others. She became the first African American woman to serve on the F.A.A.’s Women’s Advisory Committee in the 1970s.

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