Bessie Coleman was an American civil aviator. She was the first African-American woman to hold a pilot license and also the first American woman to hold an international pilot license.
Born on January 26, 2017 in Atlanta, TX, Bessie Coleman was one of ten siblings born to George and Susan Coleman. Education was important to the Coleman family, so starting at age 6, Bessie walked 4 miles to her one-room, segregated school daily. After completing 8 grades, Ms. Coleman’s life of school, chores and church was changed. To help improve family finances, her dad changed jobs moving to Oklahoma, but his family could not go with him. It was then that Bessie received a scholarship to attend the Missionary Baptist Church School. Upon graduation, she attended the Oklahoma Agricultural and Normal University (now Langston University) but only had enough money saved for tuition for one year, when she was forced to return home.
Bessie Coleman moved in 1916 to Chicago to live with her brothers. She took on several jobs to save enough money to pursue her dreams and become a pilot. While American schools admitted neither women nor Blacks, she could have easily given up on her goals and settled for what was available in the U.S.A. She choose not to do that!
Because of her hard-work, determination, and persistence, Bessie Coleman was encouraged and sponsored to take French-speaking lessons and pursue her dreams in Europe. In November 1920, Bessie Coleman traveled to Paris to study and learned to fly a Nieuport 82 biplane. She became the first African-American-Native American woman to earn her license to pilot a plane on June 15, 1921.
Bessie Coleman is an inspiration to us all, not just African-American and Native American women. She teaches us that no matter how hard things may be, no matter what you have to go through, no matter what obstacles stand in your way, you should never give up. We are as successful as we choose to be. Greatness is in your future! You just need to choose to pursue it!
Happy Birthday Bessie Coleman! Thank you for your leadership and service! Thank you for being an inspiration! Thank you for showing us how to be GREAT!