Craig White's Literature Courses

Terms / Themes

Flying Africans



According to The New Georgia Encyclopedia, the original people and events occurred at Ebos Landing (named for Ebo or Ibgo people of Nigeria). The article efficiently cites a number of sources including Song of Solomon.

The People Could Fly Blogspot

Literary manifestations

Jupiter Hammon, "An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ, with Penetential Cries"
Line 5: "Dear Jesus, we would fly to Thee"

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: from the "apostrophe" to the Chesapeake Bay [10B]:

“Sunday was my only leisure time. . . . My sufferings on the plantation seem now life a dream rather than a stern reality.

          Our house stood within a few rods of the Chesapeake Bay, whose broad bosom was ever white with sails . . . .

          “You are loosed from your moorings, and are free; I am fast in my chains, and am a slave! . . . You are freedom’s swift-winged angels, that fly around the world; . . . O that I could also go! . . . If I could fly! . . . I will run away. . . . I had as well be killed running as die standing. . . It cannot be that I shall live and die a slave. I will take to the water. This very bay shall yet bear me into freedom. . . . Meanwhile I will try to bear up under the yoke. I am not the only slave in the world. . . . It may be that my misery in slavery will only increase my happiness when I get free. There is a better day coming.”

"I'll Fly Away" is a 1929 hymn written by Albert Brumley of Oklahoma. 

Arthur Miller, The Crucible (1954)Tituba is a Black or Indian slave from the Caribbean island of Barbados:

Tituba: He say Mister Parris must be kill! Mister Parris no goodly man, Mister Parris mean man and no gentle man, and he bid me rise out of my bed and cut your throat! I tell him, no! I don’t hate that man! I don’t want kill that man! But he say, You work for me, Tituba, and I make you free! I give you pretty dress to wear, and put you way highup in the air and you gone fly back to Barbados! And I say, You lie, Devil, you lie! And then he come one stormy night to me, and he say, Look! I have white people belong to me. And I look . . . And there was Goody Good.

Tina M. Ansa, Baby of the Family (1989). [The ghost or spirit of a slave woman speaks to the protagonist:]

They sold me off down chere when I was just 'bout a growed 'oman.  I don't know why, just one day they just sold me, put me on a wagon with some pigs and goats and rode me off to this chere place . . . still to be a slave but a slave 'way from my ma and my pa and everybody I know. . . .

          I knew I had another home 'way, 'way 'cross the waters, but I ain't never been there or set foot on that soil. . . .

          Didn't have no choice, child . . . .

          Seeing them birds flying used to break my heart.  I used to hear stories 'bout how our peoples used to be able to fly at one time. . . .

1991-93 TV series I'll Fly Away concerned a black southern maid for a white family in the pre-Civil Rights era.

Lenny Kravitz, "Fly Away" 1998

Tuskegee Airmen

+ 33d air division p. 57 in Song of Solomon

Stirling, Jacqueline.  “The Flying Africans: Flight as Symbol and Legend in African American Literature.”  Thesis in Cross-Cultural Studies, 1997.

ZZ1 / .S861 / .1997

Sherri L. Smith, Flygirl (Speak, 2010)

From book description: All Ida Mae Jones wants to do is fly. Her daddy was a pilot, and years after his death she feels closest to him when she's in the air. But as a young black woman in 1940s Louisiana, she knows the sky is off limits to her, until America enters World War II, and the Army forms the WASP-Women Airforce Service Pilots. Ida has a chance to fulfill her dream if she's willing to use her light skin to pass as a white girl. She wants to fly more than anything, but Ida soon learns that denying one's self and family is a heavy burden, and ultimately it's not what you do but who you are that's most important.