Bessie Coleman (1893-1926), was born in Texas. As a child, she picked cotton and did laundry to help her family.

She wanted to move to Chicago after a few years in Texas. She went to beauty school and found a job as a manicurist, doing people's nails. She was not always interested in flying airplanes, but after reading books about flying, she found a way to get to France because she was not allowed to go to school to learn to fly in the United States. She saved her money while working as a manicurist and she also learned to speak French. She went to live in Europe and while living in Europe, French aviators taught her to fly. She was the first American woman in the world to earn an international pilot's license in 1921 and the first African-American woman pilot.

After returning to the United States, she flew in air shows so she could save enough money to open a flying school for African-Americans.

Mop Top iconCornelis R. Coffey
(1903-1994), born in Newport, Arkansas, September 3, was the first African American to hold both a pilot's and mechanic's license. He also designed a carburetor heater that prevented icing on planes. Similar to what is used today, this device allowed airplanes to fly in all kinds of weather.

Cornelius Robinson Coffey photograph,

In addition, he was the first black person to establish an aeronautical school in United States and the only non-university affiliated aviation school to become part of the Civilian Pilot Training Program.

Stephanie Wilson, second African-American woman ever to fly in space and Jackie Johnson, Founder, Mop Top Shop, Inc. at the Bessie Coleman Fly-Sister-Fly Empowerment Breakfast and honoree.
Stephanie D. Wilson (left), second African-American woman ever to fly in space and Ms. Johnson, Founder and President, Mop Top Shop, Inc. and one of the Bessie Coleman Foundation, Inc., honorees at the 2007 Fly-Sister-Fly Breakfast in Austin, Texas. As an honoree, Mrs. Johnson was recognized for her passion in promoting awareness of the many contributions made by African-Americans such as Bessie Coleman, the first American to earn an international pilot's license on June 15, 1921 and the first African-American female pilot.

Thelma L. Rudd (left), 2009 President of the Bessie Coleman Foundation, Inc. and Ms. Johnson at the Fly-Sister-Fly Empowerment Breakfast in 2007.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Why yes, it is a plane. Meet Bessie Coleman, an African-American woman flight trailblazer.
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