|2LT Eugene J. Bullard, as a Corporal in the French Army, WWI, photo credit Wikipedia, full source below, fair use claimed|
First off, an admission: I'm a big fan of Facebook. I enjoy reading what is going on with my friends, taking those gimmicky quizzes and adding my two-cents (more like a fistful of change) on various topics. It was while I was engaged in this pursuit that I learned about Eugene Bullard from a friend of mine.
For someone who considers myself a "hobby historian" I am disappointed in myself that I did not know about this man. He is a true hero. He also sounds like the kind of guy I'd want to show me around Paris.
I mention Paris because Monsieur Bullard is a national hero of France. Born in America in the late 19th Century, guilty of no crime, save being African-American. And in the deep south, well, depending on who was in charge, was a felony. His Dad almost was lynched and after witnessing this crime, he'd had enough. So he stowed away on a ship to Scotland and a few years later he was in Paris.
Ah Paris, le ville des lumières, Or those of you (like me) who have to look up French, the city of lights. It must have been a glorious time to be in Paris, or France for that matter.
Right up until the time the Arch Duke's shirt got stained...by his own blood...arranged by Princip's controlled trigger squeeze.
Then everything went to hell as the world plunged into war.
Bullard joined up with the French forces, was severely wounded and eventually became a pilot a damn good one at that. When America got into the war, all the American pilots were invited to join the newly-formed American Army Air Force. All except one. Any guesses who wasn't invited?
Yup, Bullard. Now, the bonus question: Why?
If you guessed because he was African-America, you'd be correct. What a farce.
After the war, he stuck around in Paris. Who could blame him? Go back to Jim Crow? He ended up running a jazz bar. While his marriage did not work out, he had two daughters. He life was in many ways mirroring the Jimmy Buffett lyrics, "He Went To Paris."
Then that untalented artist and Austrian Corporal took over in Germany. Again, France was at war. Except this time, Paris fell. Bullard, who spoke German, found his jazz club a popular place with the Nazis. He used these facts to spy on behalf of the Free French. However, he realized that for the sake of his kids, he should get out if he could.
That opportunity came and he did, making his way to New York.
This man's story is amazing and I could write about it at length. If your curious about him, I've got some links to his story in the sources.
Let me fast-forward to his life in America. Here was this brave man, a hero. You would think someone like him would be treated as such. Nope.
What was his fate? His reward?
He became an elevator operator. Instead of being escorted to the top floor, he was subjected to the menial task of running others there. Others whose accomplishments pale to his likely sneered at him.
Ignorance's limits are only exceeded by arrogance.
There is more, much more I want to see about this man. However, due to other obligations, I need to stop here. A second part to this story will follow soon. Please stand by, thanks.
Be well my friends,