Episode 39: Bessie Coleman

Before Amelia Earhart broke barriers in the world of aviation, there was a Black Cherokee woman from Texas who used her love of aviation to break down racial barriers. But she was forced to leave the country she loved to make her dreams reality because in 1920 no one in America was willing to teach a woman of color how to fly. This is the story of the first African American woman to pilot a plane in this country. A woman who used an airplane to promote civil rights and equal rights.

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Bessie Coleman’s Pilot License
Bessie Coleman
Bessie Coleman’s mentor Robert S. Abbott, The Chicago Defender

Episode Sources
Read the full story of Bessie’s life in Thelma Rudd’s compilation of Bessie Coleman biographies, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”

Learn more about Eugene Bullard, the first black American fighter pilot.

Smithsonian Feature on Bessie Coleman

Gigi Coleman is Bessie’s great niece. She founded the Bessie Coleman Aviation All Stars to inspire youth to be interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The program exposes youth to career opportunities in the field of aviation. Here’s a feature on the program from ABC Chicago

Gigi also performs a one woman show, telling the story of Bessie’s life.

Bessie Coleman’s favorite song was “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”. According to the biography of Bessie at BessieColeman.com: “When her body was being raised into the baggage car in Orlando, Florida enroute to Chicago, more than five hundred voices hummed, “My Country Tis of Thee”. Decades later, this would be song Aretha Franklin would sing at the inauguration of the first black President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Theme Song “Dark & Troubled” by Pantherburn. Special thanks to Phillip St Ours for permission for use.

Additional Music: “Ever Mindful”, “Relaxing Piano”, “Silver Flame”, “Magic Forest” by Kevin MacLeod; “I Am A Man Who Will Fight For Your Honor” by Dan Lebowitz. “Hope (Forward Thinking)” by Purple Planet Music. www.purple-planet.com All music Licensed Under Creative Commons.

Categories: civil rights, history, legends, texas

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