Bessie Coleman

Harmar celebrates Black History.

Throughout February, we’ll be shining a spotlight on pioneers, innovators, difference makers, and history shakers that have shaped our world.

Bessie Coleman, born in Atlanta, Texas, in 1892, is the first African-American woman to earn a pilot’s license. Throughout her childhood, Bessie established herself as an outstanding student and was able to attend what is now known as Langston University when she turned 18.

When she was 23, Ms. Coleman moved to Chicago where she took a job as a manicurist in the White Sox barbershop. Here, she heard tales of flying from pilots who had come home from the war. She became fascinated by the idea of becoming a pilot. At that time, American flight schools denied both women and black Americans. Determined to realize her dream, Ms. Coleman studied French in Chicago and ultimately moved to France to attend flight school.

June 15, 1921, Bessie Coleman became the first black woman to earn an aviation pilot’s license and the first African-American to earn an international pilot’s license. Ms. Coleman would go on to become a “barnstorming” stunt pilot in the ’20s until an accident at an air show took her life in 1926. Though her life ended tragically short at only 34 years, Bessie Coleman was a trailblazer who would inspire generations of pilots.

Harmar celebrates Bessie Coleman.