26 Jan Happy Birthday Blog: Bessie Coleman
Born: January 26, 1892
Atlanta, Texas, USA
Known For: First US woman of African-American and first woman of Native-American descent to hold pilots license
Bessie grew up in Texas but moved to Chicago during World War I in order to make a future outside of sharecropping. She quickly became interested in flying, hearing stories from her brothers, both soldiers in the war, of French women pilots. Every school she approached in America would not admit her because she was a woman, black, and Native American. Determined to pursue her pilots license she learned French at a Berlitz school in Chicago, and through the help of several funders, traveled to France in 1920 to attend the Fédération Aénautique Internationale, where she was awarded her international pilots license in 1921.
She returned to New York after 7 months and upon learning that she could make a living flying for entertainment, she returned to France for further training. Her return to America drew media attention. Over the next 5 years, she travelled around the country, performing at shows and speaking at black events and theaters, all with the goal of buying her own plane and opening a flight school for African-Americans. Bessie was known for only performing at shows that were desegregated and allowed everyone to enter through the same gates. On the first flight to test her own plane before a show the following day, she experienced a mechanical error and fell from the cockpit to her death. She achieved great acclaim following her death and her dream of opening a flight school to train African-Americans was realized in 1929 when William J. Powell established the Bessie Coleman Aero Club in Los Angeles.
Clearly, Bessie was a woman determined to follow her dreams, regardless of race or gender discrimination, and the Good Doctors wish her a very happy birthday!
Learn more about Bessie here.