Monday, February 5, 2018

Black History Month Transportation Legends: Bessie Coleman

She said that she refused to take no for an answer, even when she was denied entry to flight school. She taught herself French and moved to France where she became the first black woman to earn a pilot’s license in 1922. Her name was Bessie Coleman and she quickly became known as, “Queen Bessie.”

Born on January 26, 1892 to family of sharecroppers in Atlanta, Texas, Coleman was one of 13 children.  She attended a one-room, segregated school and excelled in math and reading.

According to, in 1915, Coleman moved in with her brothers in Chicago and became a manicurist. But not long after she moved to the “Windy City,” she read stories about World War I pilots and heard stories of their adventures in the skies. This sparked her interest in aviation.

Despite gender and racial discrimination, which was common in the early 1920s, she earned her pilot’s license from a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in France. She had high hopes of starting a flying school for African Americans. Although she didn’t get a chance to see that dream become a reality, she did return to the United States and soared to fame with exhibition flying. Coleman performed complicated stunts and aerial tricks while flying for spectators across the country. During this time, she earned her nickname.

Only a few years after she received her pilot’s license, Coleman was tragically killed when an accident during a show rehearsal caused her plane to crash. She was only 34.
Although she left this world at a young age, she continues to inspire all who wish to achieve their dream of flying.

“The air is the only place free of prejudices,” she once said. 


  1. Bessie Coleman is truly and inspiration for women of all nationalities who want to achieve their dream of flying or in the field of Aviation.