In times of segregation, aviator was a profession most deemed fit for a man, but Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman (1892-1926) challenged that thought. After gaining a love for planes while working in a barbershop listening to returning WWI pilot stories, Bessie decided that would be her goal in life. Due to racism in Chicago, Bessie learned French and went to Paris to learn how to fly in 1920. When she returned a year later, her accomplishments began rolling in. On June 15, 1921 she became the first African American woman to earn an international aviation license and the first African American woman in the world to earn an aviation pilot’s license.
Coleman continued to work on her skills and returned to France after she couldn’t find anyone to train her in the states. There she gained more aviation knowledge and eventually became a stunt flyer and participated in air shows. Bessie became a favorite everywhere.
In 1926, Bessie tragically died after she was thrown from a plane flew by her mechanic and publicity agent, William Wills. Her will power and determination to make a way when there seemed to not be one is forever admired.
Photo Credit: Biography