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

Published by Mellanie C

sketch artist, daydreamer Figurative artist specializing in small format art and portraits.

9 thoughts on “African American History Month: Bessie Coleman

  1. To my knowledge, Bessie Coleman was never invited to any Presidential inaugurations, never appeared in Time magazine, and is only honored by one Facebook group (feel free to join it). History In Actions Toys (HIA Toys), would like to do its part in recognizing the life and accomplishments of this African-American aviator. HIA Toys believes that Bessie Coleman’s story, no different than Captain Sullenberger’s, can inspire and captivate the minds of millions of Americans looking to achieve their goals and dreams every year. In an attempt to help the next generation recognize an American hero and to remind ourselves that the definition of “possible” is not set in stone, we encourage you to consider the Bessie Coleman action figure (with lesson plan) found at

    Sterling Ashby


  2. nice work!!! would you paint a picture of me, pleeeeaase??
    anyway, i’m using the same theme as you are but i can’t seem to get my blogroll appear, even though i have tried. how did you do yours?


  3. I really like your drawings, you are very talented. I got the “MAD-Sketchbook-Swap”-mail yesterday and was impressed by the very good portrait you made for Karin…so I discovered and bookmarked your blog.


    1. Thanks Pascal! I hope to get your sketchbook sometime. I hope ours aren’t lost! It might be nice to just exchange books on our own.


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