African-American Studies

Bessie Coleman Fought For Her Wings

Bessie Coleman was a manicurist in Chicago when she first began hearing stories about World War I pilots. She quickly became enamored with the idea of flying a plane herself, but no flying school in the United States would accept her. Undeterred, she took a language course in French and moved to France, where she earned her pilot license in seven months in 1921. She then made a name for herself back in America by performing extreme aviation stunts as a barnstormer, drawing huge crowds to her shows. Her dream was to open an aviation school for black students, but tragedy prevented its realization: she died at the age of 34 in a plane crash during a show rehearsal.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Bessie Coleman was born in 1892, before airplanes had been invented. 00:24

  2. Because American flight schools would not accept a black woman, Bessie Coleman traveled to France to earn her pilot license. 00:57

  3. In the 1920s, Bessie Coleman became a barnstormer and performed amazing aerial stunts. 01:54

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