American Hero - Original
- Original (Oil) - 48" x 60" - $54,000
This is the first black American fighter pilot, Eugene Jacques Bullard. But if you look at the plane in the painting, it’s not American. It’s French.
Eugene was born in 1895 in Eugene, Georgia. His grandfather was born into slavery, and he witnessed the near-lynching of his father. It’s no wonder why he left his home town at such a young age and forged his own path.
He stowed away on a ship to the U.K. and ended up in London, earning a living as a boxer and entertainer and taught himself how to fly airplanes. When World War I broke out in 1914, he asked to enlist as a fighter pilot in the U.S. military, but at the Woodrow Wilson banned black Americans from becoming fighter pilots. Still determined to become a fighter pilot, he joined the French Foreign Legion, flying in more than 20 combat missions, becoming the first and only black American fighter pilot to fly in World War I. He aptly earned the nickname, the “Black Sparrow of Death.”
Being fluent in French and German, Eugene was recruited as a spy for the U.S. once World War II broke out in Europe, ending his career as a successful Partisan night club owner during the intra-war period, hosting the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Ernest Hemingway.
After his military career in Europe, Eugene moved back to America, working as an elevator operator at the Rockefeller Center. It wasn’t until French President Charles de Gaulle invited Eugene to light the torch for the unknown soldier that the U.S. became aware of this unsung hero, being invited on The Tonight Show in the same building that he worked in.
In 1994, he was posthumously recognized as a second lieutenant in the U.S. military, more than 30 years after he died of cancer.
Message from the artist:
Eugene’s story inspired me. His determination, his grit, his service to his country, even though he wasn’t recognized for it until too late—way too late. I wanted to honor the story of this great American Hero.