Breaking Barriers: Bessie Coleman, the First African-American Woman to Fly

Bessie Coleman was a pioneering American aviator who became the first African-American woman and the first Native American to hold a pilot license. She was born on January 26, 1892, in Atlanta, Texas, to a family of sharecroppers. Despite facing racial and gender discrimination, she developed a passion for aviation and pursued it as a career.

In the early 20th century, no aviation schools in the United States would admit African Americans or women. Undeterred, Coleman saved money and went to France to earn her pilot’s license. In 1921, she became the first African-American woman to receive an international aviation license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

Upon her return to the United States, Coleman became a famous stunt pilot and was known for her death-defying aerial tricks and acrobatics. She performed at airshows across the country and inspired many African Americans, particularly women, to pursue careers in aviation. She was also a strong advocate for civil rights and used her platform to raise awareness of the challenges faced by African Americans and women in the aviation industry.

The air is the only place free from prejudices. I knew we had no aviators, neither men nor women, and I knew the Race needed to be represented along this most important line, so I thought it my duty to risk my life to learn aviation.

Despite her many accomplishments, Coleman faced financial difficulties and struggled to support herself and her family through her aviation work. Tragically, she was killed in a plane crash in 1926 at 34. Nevertheless, her legacy lives on as an inspiration to future generations and a symbol of courage, determination, and perseverance in the face of adversity.

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Written by Alicia Linn

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