Bessie Coleman Facts

Bessie Coleman Facts
Bessie Coleman was the first female of African-American/Native American descendant to earn a pilot's license. She was born Bessie Coleman on January 26, 1892, in Atlanta, Texas, to George Coleman and Susan Coleman. Her parents were sharecroppers, and when Bessie was two years old her family, including 13 children, moved to Waxahachie, Texas. Bessie lived there until she was 23. She attended a segregated school at 6, and completed 8 grades in her first year. At 12 Bessie enrolled at the Missionary Baptist Church through scholarship. Bessie attended university in Langston at 18 but money ran out after one term and she returned to her family. At 24 Bessie moved to Chicago and became interested in obtaining her pilot's licence.
Interesting Bessie Coleman Facts:
Bessie Coleman heard stories about flying from pilots returning from WWI and decided she would save money to become a pilot. She worked a second job at a chilli parlor to help save money. Her first job was as a manicurist.
When Bessie began saving to become a pilot the American flight schools did not allow women or African-Americans to be admitted.
An African-American lawyer and publisher of the Chicago Defender, Robert S. Abbott, supported Bessie Coleman's desire to become a pilot and encouraged her to go to Europe to study for her pilot's license.
To prepare for flight school in Paris, Bessie studied French at Chicago's Berlitz School.
Bessie Coleman was supported financially to go to Paris by a banker Jesse Binga and the Chicago Defender.
Bessie Coleman learned to fly in a Neuport 82 biplane. She earned her aviation pilot's license on June 15th, 1921, making her the first female of African-American/Native American ancestry to earn her pilot's license. She was also the first female of African-American/Native American ancestry to earn the international aviation license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.
When Bessie Coleman returned to the United States after earning her pilot's license she was a media sensation.
In order to earn money as a pilot Bessie had to become a barnstorming stunt flyer. Commercial flying was still at least 10 years away so making money meant performing for paying audiences.
Bessie Coleman required advanced lessons and returned to Europe for more training to enable her to be a stunt flyer.
Bessie spent the next 5 years being a popular audience draw. She was known as Queen Bess.
On Sept. 3, 1922 Bessie made her first appearance in an American airshow.
Bessie Coleman purchased a Curtiss JN-4 in Dallas and her mechanic and publicity agent William D. Willis flew it to Jacksonville where she was supposed to prepare for an airshow.
The airplane was not in good condition and Bessie's family and friends and begged her not to fly it.
On April 30, 1926 Bessie's mechanic was flying the plane with Bessie not in her seatbelt as she wanted to check the terrain over the cockpit for her future parachute jump. The plane went into a dive and Bessie was thrown to her death from 2000 feet in the air.


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