Posted on 11/22/2008

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Ruth Carol Taylor
Mohawk Airlines
First African American Stewardess

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Ruth Carol Taylor

Ruth Carol Taylor
In December 1957, Mohawk Airlines hired the first African-American stewardess in the United States, Ruth Carol Taylor. Within months, TWA announced that it would hire a black stewardess, making it the first large airline to break the color barrier in passenger service. Neither flight attendants nor their union representatives deserve credit for promoting the desegregation of cabin service. Credit goes to the African-American applicants, overqualified except by their race, who finally broke down airline resistance and their allies in civil rights organizations and state anti-discrimination agencies, especially the New York State Committee Against Discrimination. The breakthroughs of 1957-1958 were followed only by forced token integration on some other airlines in the early 1960s. Even after several airlines began to hire more African American women for stewardess positions by the mid-1960s, other forms of racial discrimination continued for several years.
Interview with Jet Magazine [May 1997]
When Ruth Carol Taylor became the first Black person to land a job as a flight attendant in 1958, she didn't take the job because she thought being a flight attendant would be so great. She says she did it to fight discrimination.

"It wasn't something that I had wanted to do all of my life," she tells JET about being a flight attendant. "I knew better than to think that it was all that glamorous.

"But it irked me that people were not allowing people of color to apply ....Anything like that sets my teeth to grinding."

Taylor is still fighting against injustice. The 65-year-old Brooklyn, NY, resident is an active advocate to alleviate racism, or "colorism," as she likes to call it.

"The concept of race is bogus. There is only one race. It is the human race," she says of why racism is not an accurate term.

Taylor invented the Racism Quotient Test, which "determines the relative degree of racism/colorism within an individual." She says, "It should be administered to every cop, judge, jury member, teacher, doctor...before they are allowed to make decisions over the lives of Black people.

"People who have to make decisions in employment and other areas must prove that they are not racist."

The mother of two grown children and one grandchild also wrote The Little Black Book, which is a survival guide for young Black men that tells them how to stay "alive and well in an institutionally racist society."