Black History: Special Delivery!!
Leopoldine Emma Doualla-Bell Smith (1939 – ) is recognized as being the world’s first black flight attendant. Born in the West African country of Cameroon, Smith was a princess in the royal Douala family. At the age of 17, Smith was offered the opportunity to serve as a “ground hostess” for the Union Aeromaritime de Transport (UAT), a french airline that served France’s African air routes. Smith graduated from high school in 1956 and then went to Paris for additional ground hostess and flight education training. She began her career as a flight attendant in 1957. Smith did not know, at the time, that she was making history, becoming the first black flight attendant for any airline in the world. She began her career one year prior to Ruth Carol Taylor who is recognized as the United States’ first black flight attendant in 1958. Smith recalled that her hiring as a flight attendant was big news in her hometown and that that it was announced in the local newspaper. On her first air flight, she recalled that she was screaming and yelling, thinking she might die, while another flight attendant attempted to calm her down.