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Wed, 08.16.1939

The National Negro Airmen Association of America is Formed

Washington Post depiction

*On this date in 1939, the National Negro Airmen Association of America (N.N.A.A.A.) was formed. During the mid-1930s and before World War II, a group of foresighted, concerned, and dedicated individuals came together in the Chicago area to create an organization that actively pursued and set the stage for blacks in aviation and aeronautics. 

Cornelius R. CoffeyWilla B, Brown, and Enoc P. Waters led the N.N.A.A.A. in its early years. Many charter members had come to Chicago to further their interest in aviation at the Coffey School of Aviation, one of the few flight training programs in the United States where Blacks could take flying lessons. Chauncey Spencer was encouraged to come to Chicago in 1934 by Oscar De Priest, Congressional Representative, after being told by the Airport Operator in his hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia, that "They didn't teach colored to fly because they didn't have the intelligence."  

Claude Barnett, director of the Association of Negro Press (A.N.P.), with strong backing from Chauncey Spencer and Dale White, suggested that the word Negro be dropped. The organization was renamed the National Airmen Association of America. The proposal was adopted, maintaining the original objectives. Application for Certificate of Incorporation was filed in Cook County with the Illinois Secretary of State listing as Directors the following: Cornelius R. Coffey, Dale L. White, Harold Hurd, Willa B. Brown, Marie St. Clair, Charles Johnson, Chauncey Spencer, Grover C. Nash, Edward H. Johnson, Janet Waterford, George Williams, and Enoch P. Waters.

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