Bessie Coleman, 1st female African-American pilot, a part of LI history

As a child picking cotton in Texas, Bessie Coleman vowed to one day "amount to something." It was the early 1900s, a time when being black in the Deep South meant discrimination, danger and death.

News 12 Staff

Feb 11, 2014, 4:31 AM

Updated 3,778 days ago

Share:

As a child picking cotton in Texas, Bessie Coleman vowed to one day "amount to something."
It was the early 1900s, a time when being black in the Deep South meant discrimination, danger and death. But Coleman refused to let racism and sexism ground her dream of becoming a pilot.
Rejected by American flight schools because of her race, Coleman went to France and learned to fly biplanes. In 1921, she graduated from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale and became the first black female pilot in the world to hold a flying license.
Coleman returned to the U.S. in 1922 and gave her first air show in Garden City, over what was once known as Curtiss Field. Today, it's the site of the Roosevelt Field Mall.
Coleman's performance propelled her into aviation history. She shot to stardom as a stunt pilot, and became known as "Queen Bess." Yet she sought to do more, and, believing that the "air is the only place free from prejudices," she hoped to establish a flight school for black pilots.
By 1926, Coleman had nearly raised enough money to open her school when she died in a crash at a Florida air show. But Coleman had fulfilled her childhood promise to one day "amount to something" by soaring across the barriers of race and gender.
Today, Coleman is credited with inspiring generations of African-American aviators, including the Tuskegee Airmen and NASA astronaut Mae Jemison.


More from News 12
1:20
Rapper Ja Rule performs at Mitchel Field as part of Nassau County’s Juneteenth celebration

Rapper Ja Rule performs at Mitchel Field as part of Nassau County’s Juneteenth celebration

1:26
Pleasant weekend on Long Island ahead of expected heat wave

Pleasant weekend on Long Island ahead of expected heat wave

0:42
Hundreds participate in 45th annual Shelter Island 10K & 5K Run/Walk

Hundreds participate in 45th annual Shelter Island 10K & 5K Run/Walk

0:31
Suffolk police: Motorcyclist seriously hurt in Bay Shore crash

Suffolk police: Motorcyclist seriously hurt in Bay Shore crash

1:46
‘We lost a brother.’ Friends, loved ones remember ‘Rookie of the Year’ firefighter at Hagerman FD

‘We lost a brother.’ Friends, loved ones remember ‘Rookie of the Year’ firefighter at Hagerman FD

1:34
Early voting begins on Long Island for Democratic primary elections

Early voting begins on Long Island for Democratic primary elections

All lanes clear on Southern State parkway following overturned vehicle crash

All lanes clear on Southern State parkway following overturned vehicle crash

Is your dad awesome? Long Island tell us why your dad rocks!

Is your dad awesome? Long Island tell us why your dad rocks!

0:27
Police: Owner of Huntington restaurant, 2 security guards arrested during State Liquor Authority compliance check

Police: Owner of Huntington restaurant, 2 security guards arrested during State Liquor Authority compliance check

2:07
New beach rules limiting access take effect after shooting in Long Beach

New beach rules limiting access take effect after shooting in Long Beach

2:04
Kevin Jonas undergoes surgery to remove common skin cancer; urges fans to get checked

Kevin Jonas undergoes surgery to remove common skin cancer; urges fans to get checked

2:15
Police: Woman arrested for motorcyclist hit-and-run in Patchogue

Police: Woman arrested for motorcyclist hit-and-run in Patchogue

2:15
Oakdale residents call for Islip officials to hold owners of former Dowling College more accountable

Oakdale residents call for Islip officials to hold owners of former Dowling College more accountable

2:07
Study: Food insecurity becomes growing problem for Long Islanders

Study: Food insecurity becomes growing problem for Long Islanders

0:41
Mastic Beach street renamed for teen who was killed 3 years ago

Mastic Beach street renamed for teen who was killed 3 years ago

1:49
Baldwin residents & businesses call on Liberty to reimburse them after water main break

Baldwin residents & businesses call on Liberty to reimburse them after water main break

0:27
Police: Man accused of exposing himself outside Westbury church

Police: Man accused of exposing himself outside Westbury church

2:37
Police: 16-year-old shot in Long Beach following chaotic night with massive crowds

Police: 16-year-old shot in Long Beach following chaotic night with massive crowds

2:08
69th annual Strawberry Festival in Mattituck underway

69th annual Strawberry Festival in Mattituck underway

1:59
Food Truck Friday: No Good Burger

Food Truck Friday: No Good Burger