Born January 26, 1892 (Atlanta, Georgia)
Died: April 30, 1926 (Jackson, Florida)
Famous For/Known For:
First African American female pilot
A Little About Bessie Coleman:
Bessie Coleman was born in Atlanta, Georgia in a one room cabin where the floor was made of dirt. Her parents, George and Susan Coleman worked as sharecroppers and both were illiterate.
Coleman attended school so was able to read stories to her mother and siblings at night. She would often express her ambition to “amount to something” in life, to her mother.
In 1915, Coleman moved to Chicago Illinois and lived with her brother. There she became a manicurist and was able to afford a place of her own. She began to hear and read about WWI pilots, and her interest in aviation piqued.
In 1921, when no one would teach her to fly due to discrimination she traveled to France in pursuit of her goal. She attended the Caudron Brothers School of Aviation where she completed flight training in seven months.
In 1922, Coleman became the first African American to receive an international pilot’s license. She specialized in stunt flying and parachuting.
In 1926, Coleman was to perform a benefit exhibition for the Jacksonville Negro Welfare League on May 1st. The day before, Coleman had a pilot, William D. Wills, fly over the area she was going to parachute from to survey the area. The plane, at an altitude of 1000 feet, took a dive then flipped over. Coleman, thrown out of the plane, plummeted to her death. Seconds later, the plane crashed killing Wills.
In 1929, the Bessie Coleman Aero Club in Los Angeles was established by William J. Powell
In 1931, in honor of Coleman, the Challenger Pilots’ Association of Chicago began an annual flyover at Chicago’s Lincoln Cemetery, where she is buried.
In 1977, the Bessie Coleman Aviators Club was established by Chicago women pilots and in 1995 the U.S.Postal Service issued a Bessie Coleman stamp in her honor.
Bessie Coleman died from injuries sustained after being thrown from a plane at the age of 34.
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