Digital Repository

Bessie Coleman

Born to a sharecropping family in northeast Texas in 1892, Bessie Coleman became the world's first female African American aviator. 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, and she refused to participate in air shows that disallowed black attendance. In 1929, a flying school for African Americans was founded in her honor in Los Angeles, ensuring her legacy as a pioneer in aviation and civil rights.

Audio: Houston Public Media

Image: Bessie Coleman at the wheel of a Curtiss JN-4 "Jennie" in her custom-designed flying suit, c. 1924. National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

Photograph of Bessie Coleman next to a Curtiss JN-4 "Jennie" in her custom-designed flying suit