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Press Release

February 9, 2016

Contact: Steve Hawkins
Oklahoma History Center, Oklahoma Historical Society
Office: 405-522-0754

Oklahoma History Center Presents “On Freedom’s Wings” Black History Documentary on James Herman Banning

Oklahoma City, Okla.— The Oklahoma History Center will present a film documentary on James Herman Banning, the first African American to be licensed to fly in the United States and the first African American to fly across the United States coast to coast. The film will be presented on Saturday, February 13, at 11 a.m. Pat Smith, one of the creators of the film and cowriter of the book “On Freedom’s Wings,” will be present to answer questions and discuss the traveling exhibit featuring Banning. The viewing is free with museum admission. Seating will be limited, so an early arrival is recommended.

James Herman Banning was born on an Oklahoma homestead in 1899. As he grew up, Banning knew that his destiny included flying. Attitudes toward race, however, prevented him from being allowed into any flying school. After piecing parts of wrecked and retired planes together, Banning finally was able to venture into the skies. By overcoming racial and financial barriers, his goal of being the first African American to be licensed by the U.S. Department of Commerce and flying from coast to coast became a reality.

The film and the traveling exhibit, called “The Greatest Story Never Told: A Living History,” were produced last year with funding from the Oklahoma Humanities Council. The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture plans to use this project and to link the Banning website to its website. For more information about this pioneering aviator and the book “On Freedom’s Wings,” visit http://jhbanning.com/on-freedoms-wings/.

The Oklahoma History Center is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, National Archives and is an accredited member of the American Alliance of Museums. The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains 31 museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.

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