by Louisa Jaggar & Shari Becker, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
This engaging picture book biography tells the story of James Herman Banning, the first African American pilot to complete a flight across the country in 1932. Captivated by flight from childhood, Banning longed to become a pilot, but couldn't find anyone willing to teach him until a chance meeting at his auto mechanic shop opened the door. Although he faced numerous setbacks, Banning's determination is supported by many, including Thomas Cox Allen, the aeroplane mechanic who was his partner on the cross country flight. Equally interesting is the back matter, which takes readers inside the research of the authors, who discovered an unpublished manuscript written by Thomas Cox Allen detailing their flight across the country, as well as articles from historical Black newspapers and interviews with Banning’s descendants.
Illustrations by the late Floyd Cooper, who passed away in early 2021, also bring this story to life in his softly luminous style. Cooper received the Coretta Scott King award in 2009, and dedicated much of his illustration career to inspiring true stories of Black history in America. In the New York Times, Cooper shared “...it’s very important that we all get a grasp on what it is that can build bridges between us. I really do see children’s books as a way to build those bridges early on.”
See the Jones Library Antiracism Book List for recommended titles for all ages.