This is Texas Originals. From Humanities Texas, for the advancement of heritage, culture, and education.
Born to a sharecropping family in northeast Texas in 1892, Bessie Coleman became the world's first female African American aviator.
Coleman spent her childhood in Waxahachie, Texas. After moving to Chicago in her twenties, she heard thrilling stories about World War I pilots and decided she too wanted to fly.
Coleman's race and gender barred her admission into American flight schools. Undeterred, she learned French and attended aviation school in France. In 1921, the same year Amelia Earhart began taking flying lessons, Coleman earned her international pilot's license.
Coleman returned to America and quickly became a sensation. Her daredevil feats in air shows captivated crowds and earned her the nickname "Brave Bessie."
An advocate for equal rights, Coleman encouraged young African Americans to fly. She dreamed of opening a black aviation school and refused to participate in air shows that didn't allow blacks to attend.
In 1926, Coleman died in an accident while taking a test flight at a Florida air show. But her example remained a powerful inspiration for others. In 1929, a flying school for African Americans was founded in Coleman's honor in Los Angeles, ensuring her legacy as a pioneer in aviation and civil rights.
For more information about this Texas Original, visit TexasOriginals.org. Texas Originals is produced by Houston Public Media, News 88.7, and Humanities Texas, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.