Bessie Coleman

Personal growth February 1, 2023 By First United Bank

Bessie Coleman was the first African American and first Native American woman pilot. She was also the first African American to earn an international pilot’s license.

Bessie Coleman was born on January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas during a time of overt racism and segregation laws. Coleman was refused into every U.S. flying school she approached, but that didn’t stop her from achieving her dream. She learned French and traveled to Paris in 1920 to attend the well-known Caudron Brothers’ School of Aviation in Le Crotoy, France. She was the only student of color in her class.

On June 15, 1921, Coleman received her international pilot’s license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. She returned to the U.S. and performed in her first airshow in September 1922. She used her growing fame to tour the country, provide flight lessons, perform in shows, and encourage African Americans and women to learn how to fly. She also refused to speak or perform anywhere that segregated or discriminated against African Americans.

Bessie Coleman passed away April 30th, 1926 during a test flight that had a malfunction causing the plan to flip over and eject Coleman from the passenger seat. During this time, planes did not have seatbelts or any kind of protection. Her flying career encourages both women and African Americans to go for their dreams.

Click on the following link to learn more about Bessie Coleman: Bessie Coleman: First African American Aviator | Unladylike2020 | American Masters | PBS - YouTube

By First United Bank