Bessie Coleman

26 Jan 1892 - 30 Apr 1926

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Bessie Coleman

26 Jan 1892 - 30 Apr 1926
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Bessie Coleman (January 26, 1892 – April 30, 1926)was an American civil aviator. She was the first woman of African-American descent and the first of Native American descent, to hold a pilot license. She achieved her international pilot license in 1921. Born to a family of sharecroppers in Texa
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Life Information

Bessie Coleman


Lincoln Cemetery

20953 W Holf Rd
Elwood, Cook, Illinois
United States


One of the first American women to enter the field of aviation. Remembered for courage and accomplishment. She fell 5,300 ft. while flying at Jacksonville, Florida April 30, 1926. Presented by Co-Operative Business League.

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Life Story

Bessie Coleman (January 26, 1892 – April 30, 1926)was an American civil aviator. She was the first woman of African-American descent and the first of Native American descent, to hold a pilot license. She achieved her international pilot license in 1921. Born to a family of sharecroppers in Texas, she went into the cotton fields at a young age but also studied in a small segregated school and went on to attend one term of college at Langston University. She developed an early interest in flying, but African Americans, Native Americans, and women had no flight-school opportunities in the United States, so she saved up money to go to France to become a licensed pilot. She soon became a successful air show pilot in the United States, and hoped to start a school for African-American fliers. She died in a plane crash in 1926 while testing her new aircraft. Her pioneering role was an inspiration to early pilots and to the African-American and Native American communities.

"Bessie Coleman" Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. 10 Aug. 2004.,

Grave Site of Bessie


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The National Aviation Hall of Fame

Contributor: AYoung Created : 3 years ago Updated : 3 years ago

Bessie Coleman was born in Atlanta, Texas, in 1892 and soon joined her family in the cotton fields. In Chicago years later, Bessie decided she would become a flier. She had to go to France to find a school that would take her, as the skies proved easier to conquer than contemporary prevailing stereotypes. Fulfilling her dream sparked a revolution and led the way for new generations of dreamers and future aviation legends, such as the Tuskegee airmen.

    She was the first civilian licensed African-American pilot in the world.
    She toured the country barnstorming, parachute jumping, and giving lectures to raise money for an African-American flying school.
    Bessie would only perform if the crowds were desegregated and entered thru the same gates.


Bessie Coleman was born the tenth of thirteen children January 1892 in Atlanta, Texas. Her parents, Susan and George Coleman, were sharecroppers. In 1901, George Coleman left his family to return to Oklahoma. Bessie’s mother found work as a cook/housekeeper. Bessie completed all eight grades of her one-room school, yearning for more. She saved her money and then in 1910 took her savings and enrolled in the Colored Agricultural and Normal University in Langston, Oklahoma. Bessie completed only one term before running out of money and returning to Waxahachie.

In 1915, at the age of 23, Bessie Coleman went to Chicago to stay with her brother. All she wanted was a chance to “amount to something.” She became a beautician and worked as a manicurist in the barbershops of Chicago’s south side where she met Robert Abbott, the publisher of the Chicago Defender.

Both brothers had served in France during World War I. Her brother John one day said “I know something that French women do that you’ll never do – Fly!” That was the last straw; Bessie decided then that she would become the first licensed black pilot.

When Bessie couldn’t find anyone to teach her to fly, she took the advice of publisher Abbott and prepared herself to attend aviation school in France. Bessie departed for France in November 1919.

Returning to New York in September 1921, she was greeted by a surprising amount of press coverage. Flying as entertainment could provide financial benefits for an aviator, but required skills that Bessie did not have. Again, she departed for France for more training.

When Bessie returned to the United States, she knew she needed publicity to attract paying audiences. Her first appearance was an air show on September 3, 1922 at Curtiss Field near New York. In a plane borrowed from Glenn Curtiss, she was checked out in the Jenny in front of the crowd. More shows followed in Memphis and Chicago, and then in Texas in June 1925.

She traveled to California to earn money to buy a plane of her own, but promptly crashed that plane and returned to Chicago to form a new plan. It was another two years before she finally succeeded in lining up a series of lectures and exhibition flights in Texas. At Love Field, she made a down payment on an old Jenny – JN-4 with an OX-5 engine.

Bessie then traveled to the southeast where she did a series of lectures in black theaters in Florida and Georgia. She opened a beauty shop in Orlando to hasten her accumulation of funds to start the long-awaited aviation school. Using borrowed planes, she continued exhibition flying and occasional parachute jumping. As she had done in other U.S. locations, Bessie refused to perform unless the audiences were desegregated and everyone attending used the same gates.

Bessie made the final payment on her plane in Dallas and arranged to have it flown to Jacksonville. On the evening of April 30, 1926, she and her mechanic took the plane up for a test flight. Once aloft, the plane malfunctioned and the mechanic lost control. Bessie fell from the open cockpit several hundred feet to her death.

Five thousand mourners attended a memorial service for Bessie in Orlando. An estimated 15,000 people paid their respects in Chicago – at the funeral of that little girl from Texas who dreamed of a better life as she picked cotton at the dawn of the 20th century.

Only after her death did Bessie Coleman receive the attention she deserved. Her dream of a flying school for African Americans became a reality when William J. Powell established the Bessie Coleman Aero Club in Los Angeles in 1929. As a result of being affiliated, educated or inspired directly or indirectly by the aero club, flyers like the Five Blackbirds, the Flying Hobos, The Tuskeegee Airmen and others continued to make Bessie’s dream a reality.

In 1931, the Challenger Pilots’ Association of Chicago began an annual flyover at Chicago’s Lincoln Cemetery to honor Bessie. In 1977, women pilots in Chicago established the Bessie Coleman Aviators Club. In 1995, the U.S. Postal Service issued a “Bessie Coleman” stamp commemorating “her singular accomplishment in becoming the world’s first African American pilot and, by definition, an American legend.”

Life timeline of Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman was born on 26 Jan 1892
Bessie Coleman was 17 years old when Ford puts the Model T car on the market at a price of US$825. Ford Motor Company is an American multinational automaker headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. It was founded by Henry Ford and incorporated on June 16, 1903. The company sells automobiles and commercial vehicles under the Ford brand and most luxury cars under the Lincoln brand. Ford also owns Brazilian SUV manufacturer Troller, an 8% stake in Aston Martin of the United Kingdom, and a 49% stake in Jiangling Motors of China. It also has joint-ventures in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and Russia. The company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and is controlled by the Ford family; they have minority ownership but the majority of the voting power.
Bessie Coleman was 20 years old when The British passenger liner RMS Titanic sinks in the North Atlantic at 2:20 a.m., two hours and forty minutes after hitting an iceberg. Only 710 of 2,227 passengers and crew on board survive. RMS Titanic was a British passenger liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in the early hours of 15 April 1912, after colliding with an iceberg during its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. There were an estimated 2,224 passengers and crew aboard, and more than 1,500 died, making it one of the deadliest commercial peacetime maritime disasters in modern history. RMS Titanic was the largest ship afloat at the time it entered service and was the second of three Olympic-class ocean liners operated by the White Star Line. It was built by the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. Thomas Andrews, her architect, died in the disaster.
Bessie Coleman died on 30 Apr 1926 at the age of 34
Grave record for Bessie Coleman (26 Jan 1892 - 30 Apr 1926), BillionGraves Record 17117660 Elwood, Cook, Illinois, United States