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Hall of Fame

Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman

First African-American Female to Receive a Pilot License

Bessie Coleman overcame racial, gender and economic barriers to pursue her dream to fly.

The first black female aviator to receive an international pilot’s license in 1921, Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman had to overcome a difficult childhood in Waxahachie, Texas, in order to pursue her dream of flying. Unable to find an instructor in the United States, Coleman learned French so she could receive flying and aerobatics instruction in France. Back in the United States, “Queen Bess” performed in airshows to raise money to open her own flying school. Her life ended prematurely in a flying accident, but not before she overcame racial and gender barriers that opened aviation’s doors to those who followed her.

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