Bessie Coleman First female african american aviator

Interesting Lady: Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman (1892 – 1926) was remarkable in so many ways. Born to a large sharecropping family in Texas, she walked four miles to school every day and worked the cotton fields during harvest. As an adult she moved to Chicago and lived with her brothers. Here she became inspired by the stories WWI pilots told at the barber shop where she worked as a manicurist. But as a female African-American she was not allowed to enroll at any American flight-school. But in France it was possible to bacome an aviator. Taking a second job, she worked during the day and studied French in the evenings. In 1921 she became the first woman of African-American and Native American descent to earn an (international) aviation license.

Bessie Coleman First female african american aviator

Because she wanted to become an even better aviator, she took extra lessons with a French ace pilot for two months near Paris. Back in New York in september 1921, “Queen Bess” became an instant media sensation. Because there was no commercial flight yet at that time, she became a barnstorming stunt flier performing at airshows. But it was hard to work in this competitive field, so she returned to Europe for additional training. In 1922 she flew her first air show demonstrating loops, near-ground dips and other daring tricks. She also had a dream to set up a flight school for young black aviators, but sadly died in a violent crash at the age of 34.

Bessie Coleman First female african american aviator Bessie Coleman First female african american aviator
Watch a segment on Coleman from the Smithsonian documentary Black Wings:

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