At the age of 23, Bessie Coleman left Atlanta, Texas, and moved to Chicago to build a better life for herself and pursue an education. It was there in the windy city when she decided she wanted to learn to fly. At that time in the United States, Bessie could not obtain a pilots license because she was a woman of color. Not giving up, Bessie learned French and travaled to France where she ultimately fulfilled her dream. In 1921, after seven months of flight school, she was awarded an international pilot's license and became the first Black woman and Native-American woman to become a pilot.
Nicknamed “Brave Bessie” or “Queen Bess,” Bessie Coleman often performed at airshows where audiences marveled at her thrilling aerial stunts. As a pilot she was so passionate about encouraging people of color to pursue aviation that she wanted to open a flight school of her own. Those dreams were sadly never realized because, on April 30, 1926, a flight piloted by her mechanic crashed with Bessie onboard. Brave Bessie’s legacy and achievements as a pioneer in aviation live on and continue to inspire generations of women and people of color to soar in pursuit their dreams.
Girls need more role models like Bessie Coleman, because imagining they can be anything is just the beginning. Actually seeing that they can makes all the difference.
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