By: Ashley Tillery
June 15, 1921 marks the day the first African American woman received her pilot license. That courageous woman is Ms. Bessie Coleman.
Born on January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas, Coleman always had a desire to become a pilot. At the age of 23, she moved to Chicago, Illinois where she overheard a conversation about pilots returning home from World War I.
Determined to get her license, Coleman took a second job at a chili parlor to gain income to become a pilot.
In 1920, Coleman took a French-language class at the Berlitz school in Chicago and then traveled to Paris so she could earn her license. She learned to fly in a Nieuport 82biplane with “a steering system that consisted of a vertical stick the thickness of a baseball bat in front of the pilot and a rudder bar under the pilot’s feet.”
After her hard work and dedication, on June 15, 1921, Coleman successfully became the first woman of African American and Native American descent to be licensed as a pilot.
Unfortunately, Coleman’s life was cut short on April 30, 1926, in a plane crash in Jacksonville, Florida. She died doing what she loved to do. She was 34.
Although Coleman’s life came to devastating end, her message and accomplishment will always prove that sky’s the limit.