Bessie Coleman, Denied by Every Flight School in the U.S., Broke Barriers as the First Black Woman to Become a Pilot

On January 26th, 2017, Google honored Bessie Coleman with a doodle to celebrate her legacy and what would have been her 125th birthday.

The Texas-native was born in poverty and became interested in aviation at the age of 23. As noted by Biography, she was living in Chicago at the time and working as a manicurist.

Listening to and reading stories of World War I pilots inspired her to dive into the field.

Becoming a pilot wasn’t easy — she faced multiple obstacles a long the way.

She was denied entry to flying schools in the United States for being black and a woman, but that did not stop her.

As noted by Smithsonian, she attended a Berlitz school in Chicago to learn French and working during the day to save money for flight school abroad.

She was eventually accepted to France’s best school, the Caudron Brother’s School of Aviation. Coleman moved there, studied for seven months and was the only black student in her class.

In June 1921, she earned an International Pilot’s License from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, making the first black woman in the institution’s history to do so.

That wasn’t her only achievement. During the same year, she took flight and became the first black woman to become a pilot.

In 1992, her first public flight (New York) drew a crowd of over 3,000 people and was the first black woman in America. Coleman refused to perform at places that segregated crowds and refused to admit black people.

She wowed audiences as a barnstormer, performed jaw-dropping aerial tricks and drew attention for being the only black woman out there.

As reported by National Aviation, the Bessie Coleman Aero Club in LA, established by William J. Powell, made her dream of opening a flight school for aspiring black pilots a reality.

Bessie Coleman’s legacy inspires others to conquer obstacles and soar high.

“If I can create the minimum of my plans and desires, there shall be no regrets. I decided [that black people] should not have to experience the difficulties I had faced, so I decided to open a flying school and teach other black women to fly. The air is the only place free from prejudice.” – Bessie Coleman



Bessie Coleman, Denied by Every Flight School in the U.S., Broke Barriers as the First Black Woman to Become a Pilot
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