Pilot Bessie Coleman, 1923
Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection
Coleman (January 26, 1892 – April 30, 1926) was a Texas native who was the first African American woman to earn an aviator’s license.
Gender and racial barriers prevented Coleman from studying aviation in the United States, so she traveled to France, where she obtained an international aviation license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. To make a living as a pilot, Coleman performed in airshows as a stunt pilot.
Coleman was killed when her plane malfunctioned. Her Jacksonville, Florida funeral was attended by 5,000 mourners.