pan am african american stewardess 1980s advertisement

In 1969, Pan American World Airways hired the airline's first African American stewardesses. The action was a boon to both Pan American and the new flight attendants hired in response to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. For the stewardesses - who created an informal association known as the Pan Am Black Birds - it was an opening to opportunities to explore the world as well as pursue personal goals that might otherwise not have seemed so attainable.

For Pan Am - and more broadly for the U.S. for which Pan Am became the "face" of America as it reached around the globe - it provided tangible proof that Pan Am was indeed "the world's airline." For the vast majority of the world's people who are non-white, seeing African Americans wearing Pan Am uniforms was a great reminder that America is indeed a place where people of color are part of the social fabric, just as in many of their own countries.


Read about their Black History Month Discussion Panel at Maysles Cinema in New York City on February 22, 2012:

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