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Bessie Coleman

1245591571GlX5sCLElizabeth "Bessie" Coleman, born in Texas in 1892, was the first female African American pilot, and the first African American to obtain an international pilot’s license. A very bright high school student who was accepted into the Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University (now Langston University), she ran out of money and was unable to finish college. After a few starts and stumbles, she decided that what she really wanted to do was train to become an aviator.

She applied to several flying schools, but none of the schools in the United States would accept her because of her race and her gender. She found that she could begin an apprenticeship in France.  She is quoted as saying, “The air is the only place free from prejudices.”

The National Air and Space Museum Library has a few books about this amazing woman. Bessie Coleman: First Black Woman Pilot (Girls Explore) by Connie Plantz; Won't Take No For an Answer: The Story of Aviation Pioneer Bessie Coleman (Mondo Publishing) by Suzanne Moyers and Queen Bess: Daredevil Aviator (Smithsonian Institution Press) by Doris Rich.

Leah Smith

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