It’s Black History Month here in the U.S. Last year, I had hoped to include more about historical figures of African descent in the realms of food and travel on the blog, but I never really got around to it. I’m going to make a better attempt this year. I have a degree in African American Studies (which is really a misnomer since I studied a lot about the Black experience in the U.S., Caribbean and South America as well social justice movements and women’s history), so I have a tendency to be interested in historical figures. If you’ve been reading the blog for any period of time, you might have noticed that I am a bit of a nerd.
I just learned about Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman (1892-1926) last week (from Pinterest no less! Thanks Sanura Weathers!).
She became the first Black woman in the world to hold an aviation license and the first Black person PERIOD to acquire an international pilots’ license, which she received in 1921 from the Federation Aeronatique Internationale in France.
Since Coleman was barred from flight schools here in the U.S. because she was both Black and a woman, she traveled throughout Europe seeking advanced instruction and greater opportunity to hone her flying skills. Since commercial flights were not an option then (aviation technology just wasn’t there yet), she had to find other ways to fulfill her flying dreams. What did she do? Miss Coleman became a stunt pilot! She performed death-defying stunts and occasionally suffered physical harm during her performances. Planes weren’t as safe as they can be now.
Bessie Coleman died very young at the age of 34 before she had the chance to complete her project of opening an aviation school for aspiring Black pilots so that they could have the same opportunities she did without having to leave the U.S.
I’m trying to imagine accomplishing some of the things that Bessie Coleman did during that era in history. I salute her for her bravery and for following her dreams.
P.S. Has anyone seen Red Tails yet? My weekends have been full, and I haven’t had a chance to see it. I’m hoping to this weekend.