Bessie Coleman: Aviation Pioneer and First African American Woman to Hold a Pilot License

OV Digital Desk

Image Courtesy: Google Doodle

Bessie Coleman (26 January 1892 – 30 April 1926) was an American civil aviator. She was the first African-American woman, and the first of Native American descent, to hold a pilot license.

Life and Career

She was born on 26 January 1892 in Atlanta, Texas, and grew up in a poor, primarily African-American community. She worked as a laundress, a manicurist, and a hotel maid to save money to pay for flying lessons. She moved to France in 1920 to learn to fly, as American flight schools were not open to African Americans at the time.

After obtaining her pilot’s license, Coleman returned to the United States and became a successful barnstormer, performing aerial stunts and giving speeches to promote aviation among African Americans. She faced significant discrimination throughout her career, including being denied entry to white-only flying clubs and having to perform at segregated events. Despite these challenges, she became a successful and popular performer, and her influence helped to pave the way for future generations of African American pilots.

Bessie Coleman died on 30 April 1926, during a practice flight for an upcoming air show. Her death was a great loss for the aviation industry. She was a trailblazer and a role model for many people.

Award and Legacy

Bessie Coleman did not live long enough to receive many awards during her lifetime, but her legacy has been recognized in various ways since her death. Some of her notable awards and honors include:

  • In 1931, the Bessie Coleman Aero Club was founded in her honor, with the goal of promoting aviation among African Americans.
  • In 1995, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp to commemorate Coleman as part of its “Black Heritage” series.
  • In 2005, the Federal Aviation Administration named her one of the “early pioneers in aviation” and included her in its “Women in Aviation Pioneer Hall of Fame.”
  • The Bessie Coleman Aviation Center at the Chicago Executive Airport, which provides flight training and aviation education to underprivileged youth.

Bessie Coleman’s legacy is also remembered through the countless people who have been inspired by her story. She was a trailblazer, who faced significant discrimination and adversity, but persevered and became one of the first African American woman pilot. She continues to inspire people around the world to pursue their dreams, despite the obstacles they may face. Her determination, hard work, and passion for aviation make her an important figure in history. On 26 January 2017, Google Doodle celebrated Bessie Coleman’s 125th Birthday.