Photo credits: Ruth Carol Taylor for Mohawk Airlines
Born in Boston, Massachusetts into a family of black, white, and Cherokee heritage, Taylor attended Elmira College and graduated as a registered nurse from the Bellevue School of Nursing in New York City.
Hired in December 1957, on February 11, 1958, Taylor was the flight attendant on a Mohawk Airlines flight from Ithaca to New York, the first time such a position had been held by an African American. She was let go within six months as a result of Mohawk’s then-common marriage ban.
Taylor was later significantly involved in covering the 1963 March on Washington and as an activist for consumer affairs and women’s rights. She wrote The Little Black Book: Black Male Survival in America (1985), whose purpose is to “save lives – the lives of Black African Males who are on the Endangered list” – in view of the endemic racism in the United States towards African-Americans.
In 2008, fifty years after her historic flight, her accomplishments were formally recognized by the New York State Assembly.
*BlackThen.com writer/historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.