Bessie Coleman's Impact: African American Flight

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Bessie Coleman was the first African American woman to fly an airplane. Before Coleman 's first flight, few women flew airplanes. The women who did were wealthy and Caucasian. Coleman always dreamed of flying. She took a stand against racism, segregation, and sexism to make her dream come true. Her bravery and determination showed the world that African Americans are equal, not just in the air, but in all places.

Coleman was born on January 20, 1926 in Atlanta, Texas to George and Susan Coleman. She was born into a family of thirteen children, and her father left the family when she was young. (Hart, Up in the Air, pg. 12) Coleman had to overcome both racial and sexual barriers, because she was an African American woman. (Handlemen, Philip.
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There, she lived with her brothers. She got a job at a barbershop. While at work, her brother walked into the barbershop and teased Coleman by saying that French women could fly but she could not. (France did not have the racial barriers America did.) Coleman got angry and declared that one day she would fly. (Plantz, Bessie Coleman: First Black African American Pilot, pg. 38)

At the time, Chicago had three aviation schools but she could not get into an aviation program because she was African American and a woman. She realized she had to do something. "She wanted to do something to uplift her race. Black people (in the US) had not been introduced to aviation and that was going to be her contribution. (Gornstien, Ken. "No Flight of Fancy". Northeastern University Magazine, March 1991, pg.
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(Gornstein, Ken. "No Flight of Fancy". Northeastern University Magazine, March 1991, pg. 19.) Reporters for African American newspapers were always complimenting her, "She is constantly in demand and receives different offers from different parts of the country..Yet with all of her fame she is still the same unassuming, friendly Bessie Coleman." (Poindexter, J. Blain. "Bessie Coleman Makes Initial Aerial Flights". Chicago Defender, October 21, 1922, pg. 3)

Coleman stood up for African American rights. At a show in Texas, authorities were going to set up separate entrances for African Americans and Caucasians, so Coleman refused to perform. Authorities finally relented, setting up only one entrance. (Plantz, Bessie Coleman: First Black Woman Pilot pg. 82)

At a show in Chicago, the all Caucasian Chamber of Commerce said African Americans would not be allowed to see Coleman 's shows. Again, Coleman was angered. She threatened to send her plane back to Texas if African American 's were not allowed to see her shows. (Plantz, Bessie Coleman: First Black Woman Pilot, pg.85)

In Los Angeles aviation was widely accepted. Los Angeles had many factories and businesses owned by African Americans. Los Angeles had YMCAs, a YWCA, a hospital, five newspapers, social clubs, churches and

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