Bessie Coleman became the first Black female pilot to obtain the pilotaEUR(TM)s license. The famed pilot became known for her aerial stunts and flying tricks.
Facts about Bessie Coleman: Her contribution to Black History is solidified as she was among the first women to break down the glass ceilings and barriers between races.
Facts about Bessie Coleman
- Bessie Coleman was born and raised in Texas. Her father left Texas to escape the discrimination that was a part of Jim Crow in Texas to relocate to Indian territories in Oklahoma; however, BessieaEUR(TM)smother refused to leave and remained there in Texas with her children.
- At the age of 18, she had saved enough to move to Oklahoma and enroll at Langston University. Even when she had to quit and could only go to school for a single semester because of financial problems, the effort she put into it was admirable and was a great precursor to her future ambitions and perseverance.
- At 23, she relocated to Chicago to stay with her brothers. She went to the Burnham School of Beauty Culture and was a manicurist. She also was employed at a barbershop in Chicago as her brothers fought for the United States in World War I. She also started a successful chili restaurant located on ChicagoaEUR(TM)s south side.
- Coleman was married to Claud Glenn, who was born in 1917. However, the couple was never publicly acknowledged as a couple.
- Inspired by the stories that her brothers told Coleman about the way French women were allowed how to fly, Coleman decided she wanted to be a pilot.
- She applied to several schools across the nation but was refused admission due to her race and gender.
- In the wake of being refused acceptance to university within the United States, Bessie found sponsorship through local newspapers, The Chicago Defender, and other sponsors. Bessie studied French in the Berlitz school located in Chicago’s Chicago Loop. After that, she relocated to France, where she was enrolled in The Caudron BrotheraEUR(TM)s School of Aviation, where she was a specialist in parachuting and stunt flying. She obtained her pilotaEUR(TM)s license in 1921.
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- After returning to America and renting an airplane from America, the aviation pioneer, Glenn Curtiss started performing shows from Chicago to Texas until she earned enough money to afford the plane she wanted to own.
- Incredibly determined and courageous, Coleman refused to perform in shows that required blacks to be the primary entrance or have segregated audience members. She also refused to depict herself in a film since it was the image of her dressed amid her rags, and she believed that it was insulting.
- In California, she bought the JN-4 (also known as a Jenny plane, but she had an accident that resulted in broken ribs and a broken leg. It took two years later before she could fly again.
- Coleman had a dream to create an institution that would cater to African Americans interested in learning how to fly. Drawing inspiration from her artistic background, she founded an aesthetics school in Orlando, FL, to reach her goal quicker.
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Death, Legacy, & Honors
- Coleman died tragically in April 1930 when she was attempting to test-drive her recently paid-off Jenny plane. She was only 34.
- Her death was just one of the stories in the mainstream press. However, Black news outlets made sure that they gave her the respect she right. The journalist Ida B. Wells was the host of memorial services held on the streets of Orlando, Jacksonville, and Chicago, which thousands attended.
- In the year following her passing away, The challenger PilotsaEUR(TM) Association of Chicago established a regular flyover to honor Coleman in ChicagoaEUR(TM)s Lincoln Cemetery. In 1977, female pilots from Chicago formed an organization called the Bessie Coleman Aviators Club.
- William J. Powell finally completed ColemanaEUR(TM)s desire to open an aviation academy for Black individuals a possibility. He founded his Coleman Aero Club in Los Angeles, CA, in 1929.
- In May 1992, Bessie Coleman Day was officially declared in Chicago, which was the city that shaped her career. In 1995, Bessie Coleman Day was declared by the U.S. Postal Service with a Black Heritage commemorative stamp.
Although Coleman didnaEUR(TM)t be alive to see her dream of establishing the school the way she wanted, her contribution to Black History is essential. She was a model of what is possible through enthusiasm and determination.
In the end, she did receive recognition for her achievements in aviation and for breaking through barriers.