Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Aviatrix Pioneer Bessie Coleman

 Aviatrix Pioneer Bessie Coleman 

Capturing the attention of the world with her hair-raising stunt flying, parachuting and barnstorming, Bessie Coleman also bridged a pivotal gap by becoming the first African American woman to earn a recognized pilot’s license. She was also among the first women to become a famous pilot. Amelia Earhart idolized Brave Bessie.

As she proved throughout her sky-high career, Bessie Coleman was unstoppable. When U.S. flying schools refused to allow her entry, she quickly learned French and departed for France, gaining her pilot’s license from the coveted Caudron Brother’s School of Aviation in just seven months.  Bessie’s life and career proves that determination and passion is stronger than any of society’s constraints.

The times were the roaring twenties in the United States. Pioneering aviatrix Bessie Coleman was admired by the women and men of her day in aviatrix because of the excitement she brought to the early airshows. She was the first American woman to receive an international pilot’s license and first African American to receive a pilot’s license. Her influence reached beyond race and gender. Coleman's dream of opening a school inspired her followers to form the schools that lead to the training of the famed World War II black pilots called the Tuskegee Airmen. She also inspired Amelia Earhart who came after Bessie. 

Coleman died in 1926 in a plane crash one day before an airshow she was to headline in Jacksonville, Florida. The United States Postal Service recognized Mrs. Coleman’s pioneering achievements with a stamp. Roads and schools have also been named in her honor. Bessie Coleman’s remarkable story of courage and achievement is still celebrated every February and March during Black History and Women’s History months. She is also hugely popular among aeronautics enthusiasts.

She was one of the first pioneers to break down social barriers and confront an issue that many at the time kept quiet. In addition, she was the first African American to refuse to perform if blacks were not allowed through the same entrance as Whites. Not only was it rare for a woman to become a pilot, but the fact she was an African American woman made her achievements all the more important. 

Brave Bessie Coleman died in a plane accident in Jacksonville, Florida one day before an airshow she was to headline. The city of her childhood (Waxahachie, TX) and the city she migrated to (Chicago) have both named major roads and schools in Bessie’s honor. The city of her death has streets named after Amelia Earhart and the Wright brothers. Bessie, however, who has a closer tie to Jacksonville than either of them has not been honored as such.


About the author:

Opio is a political commentator and founder of Poli-Tainment, Inc., a non-profit organization which uses various forms of entertainment to educate the public about important issues. He is also a documentary filmmaker whose subjects are media images, Hip Hop and meth addiction. Mr. Sokoni’s writings include books about the Seminole Wars, the plight of black police officers and a history about black music genres created in the United States. Opio has a BA in political science from Norfolk State University, a masters in criminal justice from the University of North Florida and a law degree from Howard University. He resides in Jacksonville, Florida.  Contact: Opio Sokoni / 904-422-6078 / politainment1@gmail.com.

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