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Bessie Coleman

Aviator

Born: 26 January 1892
Died: 30 April 1926 (internal injuries)
Birthplace: Atlanta, Texas
Best known as:

The world's first licensed African-American pilot

Bessie Coleman was an early aviation pioneer as both an African-American and a woman. Coleman grew up in Texas, moved to Chicago, and got interested in flying after her brothers returned from World War I. Failing to find anyone in Chicago who would teach flying to a black woman, Bessie Coleman determined to go abroad to get training -- a daring idea for that era. She moved to Paris, was accepted to aviation school, and on 15 June 1921 she received her pilot's license from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. The certificate made her the world's first licensed black aviator. Coleman returned to the United States and began a barnstorming career, appearing at airshows across the country. She died in 1926 while flight-testing an open-cockpit plane; her co-pilot lost control of the aircraft and in the ensuing dive Coleman was tossed from the plane and plunged to her death.

Extra credit:

The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp honoring Bessie Coleman in 1995... Bessie Coleman's family line included some American Indian blood: her father George was part African-American and part Cherokee.

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