And Still We Rise: Aviator Bessie Colman

Bessie Coleman or "Queen Bess" became the first African American woman to hold an international pilot license. In 1915, Coleman moved to Chicago, Illinois and found work as a manicurist. She was enthralled by stories she overheard from pilots returning home from WWI and decided to pursue her dream of becoming a pilot.

Coleman was unable to find a school or a pilot that would train an African American woman in the U.S. It wasn't until 1920 that she finally gained financial backing from banker Jesse Binga and the African American newspaper, the Chicago Defender, to study abroad at the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) in France.

On June 15, 1921, Coleman became the first woman and the first African American woman to earn a pilot's license from the FAI and returned to the United States a media darling. Soon after, Coleman made a name for herself as a stunt flyer and had aspirations of establishing a school for African American aviators before her untimely death in April of 1926 at the age of 34.

See the courageous and daring story of Bessie Coleman in And Still We Rise: Race, Culture and Visual Conversations open now through Sept. 1 #AndStillWeRise

-Assia Johnson, Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator