Bessie Coleman The First African American Woman Pilot

Grace Higgins | March 7th, 2020

An American aviator by the name of Bessie Coleman, she was the first black woman to be able to secure an official pilot’s license. And it is an amazing story of determination on how she was able to do it, because at the time, all flying schools in the United States denied her entry. As a result she first taught herself French and then moved to France, where she was able to attend the well-known Caudron Brother’s School of Aviation.

In just seven months, Coleman was able to secure her pilot’s license and could now officially fly. She was even a daredevil specializing in stunt flying and even parachuting. Even today she remains a pioneer of performing aerial tricks in the field of aviation. It was often said that her flying skills always left her audience in awe. Of course, perhaps her most famous flight happened in 1922, when she became the first African American woman to fly a public flight to America.

Born in 1892 in Texas, she was one of 13 children in a family who worked as sharecroppers. Her father, who was of Native American descent, left the family early on, in search of better opportunities. This meant all the children worked and contributed as soon as they could. Coleman did actually graduate high school and started to attend a University, however, due to financial problems she could only complete one semester. It was in 1915 when she moved to Chicago to live with one of her brothers that she started to read and listen to stories of the famous World War I pilots, thus, starting her interest in aviation. Up until this time she had been working as a manicurist, though it was not really her passion at all.

Breaking down gender and racial discrimination, she earned her license to fly in France and planned to start her own flying school for African Americans as soon as she had the funds. Cemented in history by completing the first public flight to America flown by an African American woman.

Tragically, Coleman’s story though so great ended very abruptly when she was just 34 years old, many say she had so much more to give to the field of aviation. On April 30, 1926, she was training for an upcoming aerial show and doing rehearsals where she was sent plummeting to her death.

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