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Women’s History Month

Our History Is Your History

Bessie Coleman January 26, 1892 – April 30, 1926

Coleman was born in Texas to a very poor family and was one of nine surviving children of her parents. Coleman worked as a manicurist, but had dreams of flying, due to both her sex and race, Coleman could all but hang up her dream of becoming a pilot in America. Robert Abbott the founder of the Defender sponsored her dream of becoming a pilot and sent her abroad to learn how to fly.

Through her advanced aviation courses, Coleman became a stunt pilot and eventually returned to Chicago to perform air acrobatics and where she hoped to open an aviation school for girls and people of color. Sadly, on April 30, 1926, all of Coleman’s dreams would come to a halt in Jacksonville, Florida, when her plane went into a sudden dive, and she was thrown more than three-thousand feet to the ground. Coleman’s achievements and successes are often over-shadowed by Amelia Earhart, but Coleman received her pilot’s license first on June 15, 1921, and Earhart earned hers on May 15, 1923.

Coleman’s funeral was attended by over ten thousand people in Chicago and officiated by Ida B. Wells.

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