Barrier-Breaking Female Aviator Honored for Black History Month

PEACHTREE CITY, USA – For Black History Month, Aventure remembers Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman, and first woman of Native-American descent to hold a pilot’s license. 

Bessie was born in Atlanta, Texas on January 26, 1892, and grew up with twelve siblings. She had a very difficult childhood, and helped her mother pick cotton and wash laundry at an early age. 

Coleman’s passion for flying started after her brothers returned from World War I, telling stories about women pilots in France. After rejection from U.S. flight schools, she moved to Le Crotoy, France, to study at the Caudron Brothers’ School of Aviation. 

She earned her international pilot’s license in June 1921, and moved back to the United States. The following year, Coleman performed her first public flight–the first by an African American woman. She would tour the U.S. and Europe, performing stunts in front of thousands. She gave lessons while on tour, and encouraged African Americans and women to fly.

On April 30, 1926, Coleman and mechanic William Wills took a fateful test flight. A wrench became stuck in the engine, causing the plane to lose control and flip over, ejecting Coleman from the open-air cockpit. She died at the age of 34.

Coleman’s legacy still inspires many people all over the United States to this day for her courage, strength, and dedication. Numerous aviation clubs have been named in her honor, and she was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2006.

A female African American aviator (Bessie Coleman) in a long trenchcoat posed for a photo before climbing into the cockpit of a 1920s biplane
Bessie Coleman with her Curtiss JN “Jenny” biplane in 1922.