Bessie Coleman was awarded her pilot’s license in 1921 by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. She trained in France because no American flight school would accept her as a student.
||Biographical Passage about Bessie Coleman
If I can create the minimum of my plans and desires there shall
be no regrets.
Bessie Colemans sister, Elois Patterson, wrote Brave Bessie,
an article about her adventurous sister. It has been exerpted here.
Bessie Coleman was called Brave Bessie
because she had fearlessly taken to the air when aviation was a greater
risk than it is today and when few men had been able to muster such
courage. An avid reader, Bessie was well informed on what the Negro
was doing and what he had done. Given the opportunity, she knew he
could become as efficient in aviation as anyone. She toyed with the
idea of learning to fly, even displayed an airplane made by a Negro
boy in the window of the barber shop in which she was a manicurist.
She was refused by each aviation school to which she applied, sometimes
because of her race and sometimes because she was both a Negro and
a woman. She took her quest to Robert S. Abbott, a founder, editor,
and publisher of the Chicago Weekly Defender.
He advised her to study French and Bessie promptly enrolled in a language
school in Chicagos Loop. That accomplished, he assisted her
in contacting an accredited aviation school in France. She planned
to obtain certification and return to the United States to open an
aviation training school for young blacks.
Bessie made two trips to Europe, returning to Chicago from the
second one in 1922...holder of a certificate from the FAI [Fédération
Aéronautique Internationale, the flying school that issued
Bessies license].... She put on an air exhibition in 1922 at
Checkerboard Field, today known as Midway Airport, Chicago, after
which she received many calls from young Negro men, anxious to learn
to fly. Bessie had obtained her certificate at great personal expense
and sacrifice. She told prospective students that they had to wait
until either some forward-thinking blacks opened a training school
or until Bessie herself could give enough demonstrations and accrue
sufficient money to undertake opening a school herself.
Bessie barnstormed across the country and undertook a rigorous
program of speaking engagements... When Bessie appeared over the town
in which she was reared, Waxahachie, Texas, she was permitted to use
the university grounds of the whites for her exhibition flying. She
refused to exhibit unless her people were allowed into the grounds
through the front entrance, although they were separated once inside
the grounds.... She decided to make an all-out effort to establish
a school where she could train young Negro men to fly.
I remember one letter she wrote me saying
she had taken an escort, and even went to a pool room, so determined
was she to have Negro men become air-minded. The very last letter
that I received from her said, I am right on the threshold of
opening a school.