A Woman to Know: Bessie Coleman

The air is the only place free from prejudices. — Bessie

(Bessie's pilot license, image via Wikimedia Commons)

Bessie Coleman wanted to fly, but flight schools in America didn't admit black students. So she taught herself French, moved to Europe and enrolled in Parisian flight school, where she graduated top of her class — two whole years before her more-famous counterpart, Amelia Earhart, would earn her wings.

Bessie drew crowds with tours on the air show circuit, winning hearts with her daredevil tricks *and* her strong stance on only participating in integrated aviation shows.

All her barrel rolls, figure eights and in-air stunts proved profitable. But Bessie was saving the money — she wanted to use her notoriety to start the first African-American flying school. As she so simply put it, "I decided blacks should not have to face the difficulties I had faced. So, I decided to open a flying school and teach other black women to fly."

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