The Unrecognized First

Emory Malick, an early American pilot, wasn’t known to historians until recently.

Mary Groce's detective work confirmed Emory Malick, her great-uncle, to be the first known African-American aviator. Emory's 1912 student photo.
Emory's 1912 student photo. Courtesy Malick Family Collection

Editor’s note, September 19, 2023: Since this article was originally published, research staff at the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture provided updated information to the magazine about aviator Emory Malick, the subject of the article. Even though some family members believed at the time of our publication, and still believe, that Malick was African American, genealogical and vital record information are consistent in stating that he was not, and that he self-identified as white. While Malick was without a doubt an important early American aviator, there is no evidence he was the first Black pilot.

Based on this new information, we have decided to retract the original article.

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