From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Powell, William Jennifer, Sr.

(born: 1899  -  died: 1942) 

William J. Powell, Sr. was born William Jennifer in Henderson, KY; he had a sister named Edna Jennifer. Their father died, and their mother moved to Chicago and married Mr. Powell, who adopted the children. After high school, William Powell enrolled at the University of Illinois at Champaign [now University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign] but left in 1917 to join the U.S. Army. At the end of World War I, he returned to college and earned his electrical engineering degree. In 1928 he left Chicago to enroll in the Warren School of Aeronautics in Los Angeles. Powell learned to fly, and his lifetime goal was to encourage African Americans to become pilots. He saw the field as a way for African Americans to get ahead economically by becoming part of the air age and to help break down the racial barriers in public transportation. Powell was the successful owner of Craftsmen of Black Wings, Inc., an aviation company that offered flying lessons. He also made the documentary film, Unemployment, the Negro, and Aviation (1935); published the trade journal Craftsmen Aero-News (1937-1938); and organized all-black air shows with pilots such as Betsy Coleman and Hubert Fauntleroy Julian. Powell wrote an autobiography, Black Wings (1934). He was the husband of Lucylle Powell and the father of William Jr. and Bernadyne Powell. William Powell, Sr. was a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. For more see Black Aviator: the story of William J. Powell, a new edition of William J. Powell's 1934 Black Wings; and William Jennifer Powell in Encyclopedia of African American Business History, by J. E. K. Walker.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Unemployment, the Negro, and aviation (film)
NKAA Source: Craftsmen aero-news (periodical)
NKAA Source: Black wings (1934)
NKAA Source: Black aviator: the story of William J. Powell : a new edition of William J. Powell's Black wings
NKAA Source: Encyclopedia of African American business history

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Powell, William Jennifer, Sr.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 27, 2021,

Last modified: 2018-02-14 02:29:53