African American History Month: Bessie Coleman

"Bessie Coleman drawing"
© 2010 Mellanie Collins

4″ x 5.5″   pen and markers

Bessie Coleman (1892 – 1926) was the first woman to earn an International Aviation License and the first African-American licensed pilot.

Born in Texas,  Bessie was the 10th of 13 children.  Unhappy with small town life in Texas, she moved to Chicago in 1915 to join her brother and make a life for herself.   She learned the beautician’s trade, but what she really wanted to do was be a flier.

Being a woman, and black, she couldn’t find anyone who would teach her fly.   On the advice of a friend she decided to go to France and learn to fly there.  She saved and raised money, learned some French, and arrived in France in 1920.   She received her aviation license in 1921.

After earning her license, Bessie made her living as an exhibition flier, occasional parachutist, and lecturer.   Unfortunately her life was cut short by a crash during a test flight in 1926.

You can get a better idea of Ms. Coleman’s struggles, achievements, and her legend by reading her bio on BessieColeman.com.

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