Hired by regional carrier Mohawk Airlines in December 1957, Ruth Carol Taylor was the first Black person to work as a flight attendant in the United States. She was the only one hired out of 800 applicants. She made her first flight on February 11, 1958. The flight was from Ithaca, NY to New York-Idlewild airport (now known as JFK, having been renamed in 1963). In contrast, the first White flight attendant, Ellen Church, was hired on May 15, 1930.
Taylor’s tenure with the company wasn’t long. The company, and other airlines during this time, required flight attendants to remain single, as well as not become pregnant. Taylor was fired as she got married six months after she was hired.
It is worth noting that Taylor had initially applied with Trans World Airline (TWA) and was rejected, leading her to file a discrimination lawsuit before being hired by Mohawk Airlines. Taylor’s lawsuit, along with public pressure, led TWA to hire Margaret Grant who was the first African American flight attendant for a major airline.
- Adams, Eric. 2009. “In the Constituent Spotlight: Ms. Carol Taylor!” The New York State Senate.
- Buoyant Travel, n.d. “Meet Ruth Carol Taylor: The First Black Flight Attendant in the U.S.”
- Conrard, Don. 2005. “Promoting Diversity: Flight attendants reach out to black
community during trip to Harlem.” Alaska’s World. Alaska Airlines.
- Transportation History, n.d. “Women in Transportation History: Ellen Church, First Female Flight Attendant.”