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PINEVILLE, La – When names like Orville and Wilbur Wright are mentioned, the beginning of aviation is often the thought that follows. But history is changing, and it may be time to introduce another name into the conversation.

“He’s doing something that virtually no other person in world history did, and he did it here in Pineville,” said local historian Michael Wynne.

Meet Charles Frederick Page, a black man born into slavery that taught himself how to read and write. But more impressively according to Local Historian Michael Wynne patented the first airship.

“It’s a story that truly is unbelievable and not only unbelievable that it happened, unbelievable that it’s being ignored until 2023.” 

Wynne has uncovered local newspaper articles and reports from 1904 recording the outstanding feat of flight by a black man and his airship. His research even further led him to find Charles F. Page’s patent predates that of the Wright Brothers. 

“I think Page deserves that whenever the Wright brothers are mentioned. Page should also be mentioned to some extent in our national history books.” 

The innovative accomplishments of Page are not only confirmed by historical record but have lived on through family lore and Joseph Page, Frederick’s Grandson, is glad his accomplishments are finally being recognized. 

“For our grandfather to finally be recognized for his contribution to aviation, it’s a significant event not just for our family but also for Central Louisiana.” 

The City of Pineville unveiled a Historical Landmark in honor of Frederick Page on the land that he and his family have owned since he purchased it over a hundred years ago. Pineville Mayor Rich Dupree has known the Page’s name since the early 2000’s for economic additions to the property, and now he shares the unveiling of history with them. 

“We need to remember where we come from, and history is unveiled today in a very special way in the City of Pineville,” said Mayor Dupree. 

History for Central Louisiana is changing, and Joseph Page hopes it changes elsewhere as well. 

“You hear about the airplane, and you immediately think about Kitty Hawk, North Carolina and the Wright Brothers but you never have heard of Charles Frederick Page,” said Joseph Page. 

Now, Pineville has a historical marker honoring Charles Frederick Page for his innovation and contributions to the community of Pineville. As for the airship Page patented in 1906, there is no surviving model because as Page was sending his model to St. Louis for a World Convention, Wynne says it was presumably destroyed. 

“It was shipped and something happened,” said Wynne. “Now, due to the Jim Crow prejudice of that time, we firmly believe that it was stolen and destroyed.” 

After the destruction of the airship, Page changed route due to the racial obstacles of the time and reportedly went about his life no longer pursuing aviation excellence but rather excellence for his community and family including future descendants like Darryl Davidson. 

“It’s very obvious that there were barriers and challenges that kept other people from making it as far as even he did.” 

Pineville’s recognition of Page marks history for Central Louisiana but it also sends a message people should remember about history. 

“The message here is that there really is only one history,” said Davidson. “That one history is what unites everybody together and gets us farther as human beings.”