In 1921, Bessie Coleman, born to a poor African American family in Texas, moved to Chicago, where she became interested in flying.
After being turned down by almost every flight instructor in the country, she went to France and earned her pilot’s license. Because she was African American, Coleman was not allowed to fly commercial aircraft in the United States.
Instead, she became a barnstormer, flying a World War I fighter plane in a series of dazzling stunts and maneuvers that spread her fame throughout the country. Coleman encouraged African American interest in aviation by speaking at African American churches and schools.
She was raising money to found a school of aviation for African American students when she was thrown from her airplane and killed in 1926.