True Action Hero: Eugene Bullard

Eugene Jacques Bullard was a real life action hero. James Bond, Indiana Jones, Wolverine, he was all of them.bullard Born in unreconstructed Georgia he ran away from home and joined a group of English gypsies where they employed him as a jockey. In 1912 he stowed away on a steamer and landed in Scotland. In Europe he began travelling along side a vaudeville troupe as a prize fighter. He was boxing in Paris when World War 1 broke out, and he joined the French Foreign Legion. He fought in Verdun, earning the Croix de Guerre, France’s medal for bravery. After being wounded twice in the trenches Bullard joined the Lafayette Flying Corps. He had flown more than 20 missions before the USA joined the war, but when he tried to join the American fly boys, they turned him down for being black.

After the war he stayed in Paris and bought a night club. He hung out with Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong, and even married a Countess. When the Nazi’s started gaining power in Europe, Eugene was paid to spy till things got too hot (1940) and Bullard escaped to Spain, and then New York.

Once stateside, Bullard hustled from job to job, a perfume salesman, an interpreter, and a security guard. I’m not sure which one of those jobs he was doing in 1949 when the press got a photo of Bullard being beaten by cops as they rioted at a Paul Robeson concert. Just to be clear, it was the cops who were rioting, not Bullard.

In 1954 Bullard was called back to France where he re-lit the everlasting flame and was knighted by Charles de Gaulle.

He was working as an elevator operator and living alone when he passed away in 1961 and is buried in Flushing Cemetery in Queens.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “True Action Hero: Eugene Bullard

  1. uglyblackjohn

    Do you teach your daughters about these topics?

      • uglyblackjohn

        I went to a preschool founded by the Panthers. We were inculcated with Black history (Well, not really ‘Black History’. More like regular history with an emphasis placed on any Black contribution.) and told that we could always be better than our circumstances. I knew my family history on my father’s side pretty far back because my sister used Mormon resources combined with Catholic birth records of Creoles in Louisiana to trace everything back to 1756. My mom’s side is pretty much just Native American so we would just visit the reservation in Oregon and talk to the elders. I’ve never felt inferior partly because I was taught that ain’t wasn’t. Since I’ve been in the South I’ve been described as ‘one of the good ones’ or as an ‘uppity (Negro)’ by racist whites. I just laugh.

        Being mixed I grew up Black in mostly white environments. I KNEW I was Black – although not limited to the stereotypes.
        Judging by your posts and your influence your daughters seem to be Black and white and still not limited to any stereotypes.

  2. It’s quite amazing to think the first African American pilot flew for France, not America.

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