Elizabeth "Bessie" Coleman

Elizabeth "Bessie" Coleman, (1892-1926)

In 1921, Bessie Coleman of Chicago became the first African American to earn a pilot's license, having to travel to France for her flight training since no American flight school would accept her because of her race. Upon her return to the United States, Coleman intended to start a flying school for African American pilots. She began earning the money for this cause by performing on the aerial barnstorming circuit. Her aerial stunts and parachute jumps at airshows, circuses, and county fairs across the country became internationally famous. As she toured the United States she also gave lectures at black schools, churches, and recreational facilities in an effort to encourage African Americans to enter the field of aviation. Preparing for an air show in Jacksonville, Florida, Coleman was killed when she was thrown from a crashing aircraft in which she was a passenger.

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