Bullard, Pilot in Lafayette Escadrille

A Bleriot Pengiun trainer, with its clipped wings making it incapable of flight, was used for developing skills on the ground.

From the start of World War I, hundreds of young American men and women driven by idealism or a sense of adventure or both joined the Allied cause.

The vision of aviators, the knights of the air, attracted many to the French and British air services. Then as the reputation and the glamour of the Lafayette Escadrille grew, many of these aspiring airmen wanted to join the famous squadron. However, by early 1916, the Escadrille, officially N.124, had its full complement of pilots, all American volunteers. The Lafayette Escadrille was the only unit in French service made up solely of American pilots.

Eugene Bullard flew with the Escadrille as a Corporal and completed many valiant missions over Verdun in the summer of 1916.

Learn more about this amazing group of pilots at http://neam.org/lafayette-escadrille/index.html

Future Lafayette Escadrille members are Victor Chapman, center back row; Edmond Genet, seated center; William Dugan, Genet’s left; Eugene Bullard, Chapman’s left. Bullard was the first African-American pilot.

When I think of Honey and Young Butler…

I think of Atlanta in the early 19-teens…

atlanta 1913

I see the bustle and excitement that Honey saw.  I imagine his confidence – he had done so much for himself for years at that point. He was at the tail end of puberty and feeling more like a man trapped inside of a boy all the time. He wanted to be able to control his destiny, even in the trivial, daily sense. Segregation and racism made that very difficult for him.

When I look at this picture…


which was taken outside of a Southern movie theater in 1933, I imagine Young Butler making his way to the Colored Admission.  And had Honey not stowed away to Europe, would he have been doing the same?  Hard pill to swallow, as fictional as it may be.

Romanichal Gypsies

I found some interesting info on the Romanichal nomad tribe that originated from Great Britain. They were known for their great care and work with horses. These are the people that Honey encounters, calling themselves the Stanleys.

The Wikipedia page on the Romanichal is very interesting. I noted these excerpts in particular:

European countries forced the further transport of the Romani of Britain to the Americas. Many times those deported in this manner did not survive as an ethnic group, because of the separations after the round up, the sea passage and the subsequent settlement as slaves, all destroying their social fabric.

^This reminds me of when Mr. Stanley refers to himself as “colored” and being treated unfairly.

Many, but not all, Romanichals are noted for a fairer phenotype than that of other Romani groups in Europe. Lighter-skinned Romani are not uncommon,[12] and a light phenotype, including individuals with blond hair and blue eyes, can also be seen in established Eastern European Roma communities.[12]

^And this gives an interesting perspective to why Honey is so perplexed as to how these white-looking people see themselves as “other” in Europe.

Finally, a Romanichal family in London in the late 1880s and a Romanichal man… just being swoonworthy for no good reason.

“The Bottoms” & Honey’s Columbus

As we consider Honey’s upbringing, please enjoy the media and information here:

  1. Honey’s parents met in the Bottoms where they sharecropped on the Wiley Bullard plantation.  Honey’s mother was part Creek.  The Creek Indians were the most populous tribe north of Mexico through the late 1800s, and had a very integral relationship with the white residents of the Columbus area for some time through the turn of the 20th century.

    Georgia sharecroppers pick cotton in 1898.
  2. When they moved to Columbus, the Bullard family lived on Talbotton Road. Eugene and his siblings attended black schools: Claflin and Twenty-Eighth Street. Claflin has been in extensive disrepair for some time, but is still on 6th avenue across from the lofts. It was the first school for former slaves in Columbus. claflin
  3. William Bullard, Eugene’s father, worked for W. C. Bradley in various capacities. W. C. Bradley shipped cotton up and down the Chattahoochee River.
wc bradley steamship
circa 1900. W.C. Bradley steamship on the Chattahoochee River.
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W. C. Bradley

4. There are many examples of violent mobs executing racially-charged “justice” in Columbus, GA at the turn of the century. The idea that William Bullard was surrounded by an angry mob after his altercation with the foreman ended in the foreman’s untimely death is not surprising.  Here is just one quick example of the way that mobs executed vengeance in Columbus, GA at that time.

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5. The C&S (Colorado & Southern) train line that Eugene mentions taking east when he runs away from home might have looked like this coach below.  This is the 1906 model, photographed in Denver, Colorado.



1920s Dances – Charleston, Black Bottom, Shimmy and more…

Please reference the following videos to get an idea of the dances that were commonly done at Zelli’s, Le Grand Duc, and all over the Montmartre jazz-age club scene.  Bricktop was known for her Charleston and Black Bottom, as was Josephine Baker.  Of course, Josephine would later be best known for her banana dance among others.