Flying High: Bessie Coleman’s Journey To Become The United States First Black Female Pilot

Written by Storyteller

In 1922, Bessie Coleman became the first black female pilot in the United States. She was also the first black person in the United States to hold an international pilot’s license. Bessie specialized in performing aerial stunts, stunt flying and parachuting.

Bessie Coleman was born January 22nd, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas. Bessie was the daughter of Susan and George Coleman who were both sharecroppers. Bessie was one of thirteen children born to the couple.  Even though Bessie grew up to become a world history maker, she endured hard beginnings in her early years. When she was young, her father decided he wanted to move onto land that was rightfully his due to his Native American bloodline. However, Bessie’s mother Susan wanted to stay behind with their five young children. Susan had to take on jobs such as picking cotton and as a laundress to keep the family afloat. Sometimes Bessie had to miss the little schooling that she was able to get to help her mother in the fields.  However, Bessie was able to graduate from eighth grade and she went on to industrial college for only one semester.

In 1915, then moved to Chicago, where two of her older brothers resided. Here, she would develop interest in aviation.  She even got more interested when she would read stories about female pilots of World War One. Bessie, searched for and applied to aviation schools. However, due to the discrimination against blacks during this time, she was not accepted to any schools.  One of her colleagues from work, suggested that she go to France for aviation school. She took their advice, and in 1920 she left for France.

While in France, she was accepted into aviation school and received her pilot’s license. She returned to the States to work as a pilot for a little while. She then went back to England to receive training in stunt flying. When she finally returned to the U.S., she performed in several flight shows, often with planes that she purchased with her own funds.

Sadly, at the age of 34 Bessie Coleman passed away during a flight show in which she was thrown from the plane and fell to her death.

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