Friday, February 8, 2013

"Black Bloggers Connect: BHM ENTRY" BLACK HISTORY MONTH CHALLENGE - DAY 8: A Pioneer Soaring to New Heights


Day 8 of my Black History month challenge, I chose to write about Bessie Coleman. A pioneer is soaring black women to new heights.

Elizabeth "Bessie" Coleman was born on January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas.  At 12 years old, she began attending the Missionary Baptist Church in Texas and, after graduating, headed to Oklahoma to attend the Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University (Langston University), where she was able to complete only one term due to financial constraints.

In 1915, at 23 years old, Coleman moved to Chicago, where she lived with her brothers and worked as a manicurist.  Not long after her move to Chicago, she began listening to and reading stories of World War I pilots, which sparked her interest in aviation.

Coleman longed to fly but could not fulfill that longing because flying schools in the United States denied her entry.  She began attending language classes at night to teach herself French and in November, 1920, Coleman departed for France to attend Ecole d'Aviation des Freres Caudron in Le Crotoy.  In 1922, Coleman broke barriers of both gender and racial discrimination by becoming the first Black woman to earn a pilot's license. 

Though she wanted to start a flying school for African Americans when she returned to the U.S., Coleman specialized in stunt flying and parachuting, and earned a living barnstorming and performing aerial tricks. In 1922, hers was the first public flight by an African- American woman in America.

Tragically, on April 30, 1926; at the age of just 33 years old, Coleman was killed in an accident during a rehearsal for an aerial show.  To this day, she remains a pioneer of women in the field of aviation.

"No one had ever heard of a black woman pilot in 1919.  I refused to take no for an answer." - Elizabeth "Bessie" Coleman

"The air is the only place free from prejudices." - Bessie Coleman

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