Friday, February 17, 2017


In 1921, Bessie Coleman became the first African American aviator with an international pilot's license in the United States. She was licensed in France. 
images: Bougie Black Girl and wikipedia

Bessie Coleman heard stories from pilots returning home from World War I about [black men] flying during the war. She could not gain admission to American flight schools because she was black and a woman.

So, Robert S. Abbott, founder and publisher of the Chicago Defender, encouraged her to study abroad. Coleman received financial backing from a banker named Jesse Binga[6] and the Defender and went to France where she got her international pilots license.

Over the next five years Coleman performed at countless air shows. The first took place on September 3, 1922, in Garden City, Long Island. The "Chicago Defender" publicized the event saying the "wonderful little woman" Bessie Coleman would do "heart thrilling stunts."

She announced her intent to start a flying school for African Americans, and began recruiting students for that future venture. She started a beauty shop in Florida to help raise funds. She also regularly lectured at schools and churches.

Bessie Coleman landed a movie role, but walked away when she realized that the depiction of her as a black woman would be as a stereotypical "Uncle Tom." Those of her backers who were in the entertainment industry in turn walked away from supporting her career.

[Thousands of people,] including local dignitaries, attended her events. Over the following years, Coleman used her position of prominence to encourage other African Americans to fly. She also made a point of refusing to perform at locations that wouldn't admit members of her race.

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(I haven't been able to find a reference lately. She had a hard time getting black men to train her to fly too. Sexism is real in the black ways it seems like it wasn't during slavery and the day immediately following. Read Black Women's History written by black women when you can. Black feminists also cover a lot of black history in their texts.)