Bessie Coleman (1892-1926) defied Jim Crow laws and racism towards Blacks early in the 20th century by becoming the first African-American female aviator. Despite the fact that she grew up poor, she sought out the opportunity to make her dreams come true. With the help of a mentor and the inspiration of her brothers, she ventured overseas to France to obtain flight training. France at the time did not discriminate against Blacks but welcomed them into its society and schools. There Bessie not only completed her training but gained fame and prestige as a fully qualified and talented airplane pilot, who performed stunts at air shows. This recognition influenced other African American women to realize they too could defy oppression by White society and seek opportunities previously closed to women of their race. Bessie’s success and others contributed not only to the Women’s Movement and but also to the Equal Rights Movement for years to come because of her belief in optimism and perseverance.
Unfortunately, Bessie would not live to see the changes inspired by her contributions of African-American firsts. She died on April 30, 1926, at her final air show. Her legacy continues to this day through the recognition and adoration by modern female African American aviators.