James Herman Banning: On Freedom's Wings
We are designing and building a traveling exhibition, On Freedom's Wings, which features an unknown minority hero, James Herman Banning, who helped herald in the Golden Age of Flight.
This exhibition will visit underserved urban and rural communities across the United States--and be set up in their schools, libraries and community centers. For two months, each community will have the opportunity to learn about Banning and his incredible adventures as the first African American to fly across the United States of America.
Why is this so important? In 1996, Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s NOAHS Center conducted an experiment. They asked several different Washington DC elementary schools to ask their 4th and 5th grade students to draw pictures of scientists. The students did. Every picture contained a white male--many with glasses and pocket protectors. Then the NOAHS Center sent in an African American male scientist as well as a female scientist to visit each classroom.
Three weeks after the visit, the students were again asked to draw scientists. They drew scientists that looked like them--with clothes that they could see themselves wearing. Oftentimes, the clothes were the same as what Dr. Annie Donahue and Dr. Robert Davis were wearing at their visit. Each drawing reflected the children themselves. These children suddenly were able to envision themselves as scientists for they had role models.
We want to inspire students to see themselves in James Herman Banning--aviator, explorer, writer, and leader. This program is design to teach literature, history, math and science, but even more importantly, this program is designed to inspire. To kick off the Traveling Exhibition, Jeantique Oriol, (who plays in the award winning Black Angels Over Tuskegee) will visit selected schools as James Herman Banning. The students will meet “Banning” and be able to ask him questions about their life and times. Imagine “Banning” walking down the halls of Oklahoma schools in period correct clothing – staying in character as he interacts with students he meets along his way. Banning and Allen will come alive in the classrooms bringing a lasting impression to students and educators. Also, ‘Banning’ and ‘Allen’ will host a Family Night--a family field trip where parents are invited to share in learning about their incredible flight. These will help bring parents, teachers, and community members together to experience the joy of ‘lifelong learning.’