The Air Force's Black Ceiling

Non-Fiction - Military
157 Pages
Reviewed on 06/30/2016
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

The Air Force's Black Ceiling is a nonfiction military history book written by Ivan Thompson. While the US Air Force is unparalleled across the globe, the lack of diversity within its pilots in general and fighter pilots specifically is a failing that needs to be both recognized and addressed. The author worked his way through company and field grade ranks in the Air Force and also served on the Secretary of Defense's Diversity Task Force as the Deputy Director of the Defense Business Practice Implementation Board. He takes an historical look at the roles African Americans have played in the Air Force as he explains why there's been a paucity of black three- and four-star commanders and never a black chief of state. He shows how a policy decision was made to prefer fighter pilots for promotional opportunities over others, including bomber pilots, and other policy decisions that deliberately excluded minorities. Thompson shares a look at the Tuskegee Airmen, those approximately 900 black pilots who made such an impact during World War II, and he examines their success and achievements demonstrating how similar environments and education could be instrumental in finally breaking what the author calls the Black Ceiling.

Ivan Thompson's nonfiction military history work, The Air Force's Black Ceiling, is a rigorously researched and well-presented look at the history of the promotional scheme of the US Air Force over the last century, with particular emphasis placed on the decreasing opportunities for African Americans to achieve rank on a par with their white peers in the service. He explains the politics behind the decision to recruit from the fighter pilots, and the way in which the Creech method selects and grooms those candidates deemed most promising for promotion. I was particularly fascinated by Thompson's accounts of the Tuskegee Airman and the impact of President Roosevelt's Civilian Pilot Training Program, which paved the way for the inclusion of black pilots in the military. The Air Force's Black Ceiling is both an inspiring and an upsetting read, especially his chapter on Colonel Charles E. McGee, whose career achievements seem to have been overlooked, and who, as the author shows, clearly deserves that one star. Thompson also includes an extensive list of sources for his work. The Air Force's Black Ceiling is most highly recommended.