Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman (1892-1926)

First African-American woman to hold a pilot license.

Quote: “If I can create the minimum of my plans and desires, there shall be no regrets.”



  • Bessie Coleman was born January 26, 1892 and was one of thirteen children. Her father moved back to Oklahoma to try and escape discrimination, but the rest of the family stayed in Waxahachie, Texas.
  • At eighteen, Bessie had saved enough money to attend Langston University in Oklahoma, but dropped out after one semester due to financial issues.
  • Bessies moved to Chicago with her brother at age 23 and became a manicurist at a local barbershop. Her brother would tease her because French women could learn to fly and she could not.
  • No American school would allow Bessie to enroll because she was African-American and a woman. Bessie decided to then teach herself French and move to France to attend aviation school and earn her license.
  • In 1922, she performed the first public aviation performance by an African-American woman. She would continue to tour the US and European countries giving flight lessons, performing in flight shows, and encouraging African-Americans and women to fly.

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