The Life of Bessie Coleman, the World’s First Black Aviatrix

March 19, 2019

Bessie Coleman is the world’s first black woman pilot, and her great-niece Gigi Coleman carries on the pilot’s legacy by performing her life story. Learn more about how Bessie Coleman’s bravery and persistence helped her make aviation history. 

Gigi Coleman, great-niece of the world’s first African American and Native American pilot Bessie Coleman, carries on her great-aunt’s legacy. Bessie was the tenth of thirteen children and the sister of Gigi’s grandmother. As Gigi was growing up, she didn’t fully grasp the historical importance of her great-aunt Bessie, but Gigi does recall local reporters interviewing her grandmother about Bessie. Despite a disappointing start to her aviation career, which included getting rejected from a number of aviation schools in the Chicago area, Bessie set off for France, where she hoped she would have better luck learning to fly. Bessie learned French and eventually earned a flight certification that’s recognized around the world. Gigi comments that Bessie’s achievement was remarkable at that time, “because at that time no one thought people of color had the intellect to operate an aircraft, let alone a woman of color!” Back in the states, Bessie applied her flight skills to barnstorming shows, which helped her earn money that would go towards establishing her own flight school. Today, Gigi’s own nonprofit inspires students of color to pursue aviation careers, a goal that Bessie surely would have supported.

Learn more about Gigi’s amazing work and support her upcoming event in April!

 

Check out our Calendar for info on Museum programs about the history of flight, and get a Membership so you can enjoy these events by visiting the Museum for free!

 

Host: Sean Mobley

Producer: Sean Mobley

Webmaster: Layne Benofsky

Content Marketing Manager: Irene Jagla

Topics: Pilot, History, Storytelling, First Black Aviatrix

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