Bessie Coleman and her impact on African American women
Bessie Coleman inspired young African American women everywhere when she took flight in 1922 becoming the first African American woman to take flight. Bessie Coleman was born the tenth of 13 in Atlanta, Texas in 1892. Her parents were sharecroppers and with ultimately no choice she joined her family in the cotton fields. It wasn’t till years later when she relocated to Chicago that she decided she wanted to become a flier. The only school that would accept her was in France where the skies were easier to conquer.
She became the first civilian licensed African-American pilot in the WORLD! When she returned to the united states she knew she needed publicity to attract a paying audience. Her first air show was on Septemeber 3rd 1922 at Curtiss Field near New York. Bessie traveled to California to buy a plane of her own, she quickly crashed that plane and went back to Chicago to rethink her plane for her life. It took almost 2 years for her to finally be successful in lining up a series of lectures and exhibition flights in Texas.
To earn extra money Bessie opened her own hair salon in Orlando to help pay for aviation school she used borrowed planes to practice. As she had done in other US locations, Bessie refused to perform unless the audience was desegregated and everyone attending used the same gates. On April 30, 1926, Bessie and her mechanic took her first plane she purchased up for a test flight, once she was in the air the plane malfunctioned and the mechanic lost control. Bessie fell from the open cockpit several hundred feet to her death. Over 20k paid their respects for Bessie Coleman for the African American girl who followed her dreams and made them a reality.
Only after her death did Bessie Coleman receive the attention she truly deserved. Her dream of a flying school for African Americans became a reality, William J. Powell established the Bessie Coleman Aero Club in Los Angeles in 1929.