100 years ago Bessie Coleman became the first African American woman to earn her pilot’s license. In the 1920s she toured the U.S. as a barnstormer, entertaining crowds with her aerial aerobatics and inspiring contemporaries with her boundless determination to fly despite significant racial and gender prejudice. A champion of other early aviators, she planned to open a flight school for African Americans, a dream unfulfilled due to her untimely death in 1926.
Coleman has been an inspiration and role model to generations of pilots and an enduring symbol of perseverance. Join us for a panel discussion celebrating Coleman’s centennial achievement, boundary-breaking life, and lasting legacy.
Gigi Coleman, the great niece of Bessie Coleman, will provide the program's introduction.
Ellen Stofan, the Smithsonian’s Undersecretary for Science and Research, will moderate a panel discussion featuring:
- Lonnie Bunch, Secretary of the Smithsonian
- Philip Hart, author, educator, filmmaker, and descendent of early aviator James Herman Banning
- Carole Hopson, pilot and author
The GE Aviation Lecture Series is made possible by the generous support of GE Aviation.