W.E.B. Du Bois: First Flight Across the Ocean

W.E.B. Du Bois at his desk at Atlanta University. (Courtesy W.E.B. DuBois Collection, Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries)
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It was but yesterday when flying was for birds and angels, yet today I flew the Atlantic. What was superman for Lindbergh, I did as a passing chore.

It was not a large plane, nor impressive. We taxied a mile turning up the sound to mist. We rose above the jagged cream cliffs of Manhattan. Gaily we sailed over sprawling New England and the brown bits that were Boston. Then shooting above the clouds, for hours we rode on a carpet-like filmy cotton fleece. We dropped on a cold Newfoundland town and I drank apricot brandy. We climbed to twenty thousand feet and streaked on long low level flight. Night fell in the afternoon. The Aurora Borealis flared in the North, back of the Great Bear. On the right hung a half moon.

Most of the time we rode steadily on even keel with the low thrill of the engine; but at times the ship realised itself, shook, swayed, trembled and dipped, to prove that it yet owned its own soul and was not wholly thrall to machine. Darkness and fog enveloped us, but on and on and ever on we flew. I fell into troubled sleep; but suddenly, the sun came up like thunder and we dropped on the Green Island and the River Shannon.

We dined in London.

Nothing is impossible. One of these mornings we will breakfast in New York, lunch on the moon, and after dinner shake hands with God.

From “Winds of Time” by W.E.B. Du Bois, The Chicago Defender, November 5, 1945

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