Bessie Coleman was a pioneer and an innovator in the field of aviation not only as an African American but as a woman. With all the obstacles placed in her path by the society she lived in during her time, she was an example for all of those following in her path. Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman was born on January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas, the daughter of George and Susan Coleman.
An avid reader and Bessie was very good in mathematics and spent evenings reading to her brothers and sisters about African-American heroes.
Coleman ended up in Paris, France in November 1920, having studied French at the Belitz School in Chicago. She enrolled in a ten-month course at the Ecole d’Aviation des Freres Caudon at Le Crotoy in the Somme, completing it in only seven months. She learned to fly in a Nieuport Type 82 biplane, even learning to perform tricks such as “tail spins, banking and looping the loop.” On June 15, 1921, Coleman became not only the first Black American woman to earn an international aviation license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, but also the first Black American to earn an aviation pilot’s license (she earned a pilot’s license before Amelia Earhart). After training for an additional three month with a French pilot, Bessie returned to the United States in September 1921, arriving in New York where she became a media sensation.