Bessie's Early Life Information Card


Bessie's Early Life Information Card


Bessie Coleman nicknamed “Brave Bessie” and “Queen Bess,” rose to national prominence as the first female pilot of both African American and Native American heritage. She was born in Atlanta, Texas in 1892. Her father worked as a sharecropper and her mother a maid. Bessie spent her youth picking cotton and washed laundry to save money for her education. Her father eventually left his family and Texas to seek more stable financial opportunities in Oklahoma.
In 1915, Bessie moved to Chicago, Illinois to live with her brothers. She worked in a barbershop to support herself. Her Brothers served in World War I and descriptions of their experiences inspired her interest in aviation.
Because U.S. flight schools did not admit female students, Bessie taught herself French to submit her application to a flight school in Paris, France. In June of 1921, she graduated with an international pilot’s license.
Bessie Coleman’s ultimate goal was to open an American flight school that allowed female students. She began a speaking tour around the U.S. and would only speak at organization that did not segregate the audience. She used her position and fame to encourage women and African Americans.
In 1922 she performed the first public flight exhibition by an African American woman. She continued her speaking and flying stunt shows until she was involved in a major accident in 1923. In 1925, Bessie began performing again putting on flight demonstrations in her Jenny-JN-4 plane.


Thomas G. Carpenter Library Special Collections


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Thomas G. Carpenter Library Special Collections, “Bessie's Early Life Information Card,” Thomas G. Carpenter Library Digital Exhibits, accessed May 30, 2024,