She would’ve been 131 years old!
Bessie Coleman was born on January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas, the daughter of sharecroppers. She relocated to Chicago in her 20s, working as a manicurist before discovering her passion for aviation. After being denied admission to a number of aviation schools as a result of racism and gender discrimination, Coleman landed an opportunity to attend school in France, making history as the first Black woman to earn a pilot’s license. She went on to become the first Black woman to earn her international pilot’s license as well. Coleman rose to prominence as one of the most famous aviators in the world, forging a lifelong career as a stunt pilot before her death in a plane crash in 1926.
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In an effort to keep her legacy alive and honor her birthday, here are 5 new things to teach your child about Bessie Coleman:
Coleman was selected to receive her own quarter in 2023 by the U.S. Mint.
As previously reported by Because Of Them We Can, “Coleman was the first Black woman and first Native American woman to earn a pilot’s license. She was rejected from U.S. aviation schools as a result of her race and gender, eventually learning French and traveling abroad so she could apply to aviation programs, obtaining her international pilot’s license in 1921. Coleman was known for her historic accomplishments as well as her fearlessness in the sky, where she performed loop-the-loops and figure-eights. Coleman was an advocate for other women and African Americans to get into the pilot industry, her commemorative coin paying tribute to her contributions.
The 2023 honorees were selected by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen with the help of the Smithsonian Institution’s American Women’s History Initiative, the National Women’s History Museum, and the Congressional Bipartisan Women’s Caucus.”
“The range of accomplishments and experiences of these extraordinary women speak to the contributions women have always made in the history of our country. I am proud that the Mint continues to connect America through coins by honoring these pioneering women and their groundbreaking contributions to our society,” said Ventris Gibson, Mint Deputy Director, in a statement.
Google honored her with a Doodle celebrating her accomplishments.
On January 26, 2016, which would’ve been Coleman’s 125th birthday, Google paid homage with a Doodle in her honor.
On the 100th anniversary of her historic achievement, a group of all Black women pilots flew in her honor.
“Bessie Coleman was raised in Waxahachie, a suburb of Dallas, Texas…In honor of Coleman’s 100th history making anniversary, an all-Black woman American Airlines crew operated a flight from Coleman’s hometown of Dallas to Phoenix. Included on that flight was Gigi Coleman, the great-niece of Bessie Coleman. From the pilots and flight attendants, all the way to the aviation maintenance technician, every crew member was a Black woman.”
Coleman continues to inspire generations of women and girls, like the second grader who was introduced to her through a cartoon when she was just 4-years-old.
“When Noa was four years old she was introduced to Bessie Coleman while watching an episode of Disney Junior’s Doc McStuffins. Ever since then, she has sought out opportunities to learn more about the first woman of African American descent to hold a pilot’s license…In the 2nd grade, when Noa’s teacher assigned her Amelia Earhart for her school’s Wax Museum exhibit, Noa recalled another pilot of significance during the same time period and requested to dress up and do her report on Bessie Coleman instead.
After completing thorough research to properly present Ms. Coleman to her class, Noa’s mother emailed her final report to The National Aviation Hall of Fame…The National Aviation Hall of Fame was so impressed that they flew Noa and her family to Ohio to meet Bessie Coleman’s great niece, Gigi Coleman, during her one woman show at the Air Force Museum Foundation’s Living History Series.”
The Bessie Coleman Aero Club was created after her death to advocate for more Black pilots.
According to the National Air and Space Museum, the Bessie Coleman Aero Club was founded in 1929 by Chicago entrepreneur William J. Powell. Powell had the goal of promoting aviation among men and women in the Black community.
Happy Heavenly Birthday Ms Coleman! Because of you, we can!
5 new things to teach your child about Bessie Coleman. Photo Courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images