Despite all the odds stacked against her, Bessie Coleman knew that one day she would conquer the skies.
Today in 1892, Coleman was born to a family of sharecroppers in Atlanta, Texas. She attended a segregated school where all eight grades were taught in one room. Determined to further her education, Coleman saved her money to go to Langston University in Oklahoma; however, she had to leave after one year, due to lack of funds. In her early 20’s, she relocated to Chicago with hopes of creating a better future for herself. While there, she worked as a manicurist and discovered her true passion: aviation.
Her growing interest in aviation led her to apply to aviation school, but, because of her gender and the color of her skin, Coleman was denied admission several times in the states. Although she received rejection after rejection, Coleman knew that she only needed one yes. This yes would come from a flight-training program in France, where she became the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license. By the early 1920’s, Coleman also became the first African American woman to receive an international pilot’s license. After making history, twice, Coleman went on to earn a living as a stunt pilot.
Coleman’s biggest career goal was to open an aviation school focused on training people of color. Unfortunately, before she could turn her dream into a reality, Coleman died in a plane crash in 1926. Today, The Bessie Coleman Aero Club and the Bessie Aviators organization carries on Coleman’s legacy, which continues to inspire us all to make our dreams take flight.