NEW YORK (WABC) – They say the sky’s the limit, but for Patricia Banks-Edmiston, it’s only if you’re willing to fight for it.

As a pioneer of black flight attendants in the United States, Edmiston blazed a trail that continues to elevate generation after generation. But being the first is not always easy.

To hear Edmiston tell it, the following words were what set her on her original path: “They don’t hire niggers.”

“I was in college and I happened to see an article in a fashion magazine about Grace Downs Air Career School and I was like, ‘Gosh, it would be nice to be able to fly,'” Edmiston told Sandra Knizhnik on Here & Now”.

The thought of flying soon became a dream worth living as Edmiston later applied and was accepted to Grays Downs. But she soon noticed that high grades would lead her, but for now.

“I interviewed with Mohawk (Airlines), TWA (Trans World Airlines) and Capital Airlines — and I didn’t get any results,” she said. “So one of the chief flight attendants I mentioned on the street one day said, ‘I hate to see you go through this, but they don’t hire blacks.’

Using adversity as fuel, Edmiston decided it was “time to do something.”

Having experienced a lot of racism in her time, Edmiston refused to let it drown out her voice and take control of her story. She spoke with a family friend who introduced her to Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who in turn led her to file a complaint with the New York State Commission on Non-Discrimination.

After filing in 1956, the court ruled in her favor in 1960 and ordered Capital Airlines to hire her within 30 days or the case would go to the Supreme Court. Shortly after, Edmiston received a call from the president of Capital Airlines and welcomed her to the team.

But before that fateful call, Edmiston’s fight had already opened the door for other women in flight: Ruth Carol Taylor was hired as the first black flight attendant to work for Mohawk Airlines.

When asked about how the fight felt, Edminston described it as something she had to do.

“I’ve had racism in one form or another all my life,” she said. “That kind of put the icing on the cake that there was racism here, and the only way you’d know about it, it’s so hidden, is if you apply for a job as black and find out you’re not wanted because you’re black.”

Edmiston is a special guest on this one part “Here & Now”.

“Here & Now” is a community affairs program from WABC-TV New York.

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