The Night Thread Fought for the French (3/16/21)

Eugene Bullard was America’s first black fighter pilot, serving in the French Foreign Legion as an aviator during WWI. He became known as the “Black Swallow of Death.” Born in Georgia in 1894, Bullard was the grandson of slaves. Raised by his father to believe France a country where his skin color wouldn’t matter, Bullard took a roundabout route to his dream, first as a stowaway and then as a champion boxer in Liverpool, England, at only 17. Less than a year after he finally arrived in Paris in 1913, France went to war with Germany, and Bullard joined the Foreign Legion.

After being wounded multiple times, Bullard bet a friend that he’d become an aviator. His incredulous friend reminded him that there were no black pilots, but Bullard won the bet regardless, to the tune of $2000, prompting his friend to remark, “Bullard, I am sorry I lost that kind of money to you or anyone else, but I am glad that the first military Negro pilot aviator came from Dixie.”

He had a reasonably distinguished career as a fighter pilot and is acknowledged as the first African-American military pilot to fly in combat, and the only African-American pilot in World War I. He never flew for the United States. He did, however, have a pet monkey as a copilot.

Have a good night, Avocados!