Bessie Coleman performed in aerobatic shows in New York and Chicago, and gained a reputation as "the world's greatest woman flyer." Her dazzling performances earned her the nicknames "Brave Bessie" and "Queen Bess." But fame left her dedication to the betterment of her communities unshaken.
She set out to start a flying school for aspiring African-American pilots, saving earnings from her aerobatic shows to fund such an academy. However, due to a series of debilitating plane crashes, Coleman tragically never saw her dream come true. On a routine maintenance test flight in 1925, the mechanic piloting the plane lost control. Coleman fell out of the open cockpit, plummeting to her death. Thousands of mourners attended her funeral to pay their respects. Many more continue to honor her today.
Fortunately, Coleman's death was not in vain. Her dream of establishing a flying school open to all races was realized just four years later, in 1929, when William Powell opened the Bessie Coleman Aero Club in Los Angeles, California.
Queen Bess still serves today as a symbol to African-American communities everywhere and every year African-American pilots fly over her grave in Chicago to drop flowers in her honor.
Brave Bessie Coleman broke down barriers of race and gender so that she might soar above prejudice. That's why she's a Time Traveler Tours #HistoryHero. Many thanks to Roxie Munro of New York, NY, for introducing her to us.