Soaring across the sky as the first African American black woman, Bessie Coleman remains an inspiration for women around the world. Known for her flying tricks and courage, Bessie Coleman’s goal was to encourage black women to reach their dreams. For her bravery, she was known as “Queen Bess” or “Brave Bessie.”Queen Bess dreamed of opening her flight school and helping black people. She gave speeches and showed films of her air tricks in churches, theaters, and schools to earn money.
Coleman was born in Atlanta, Texas in 1892. She grew up with her mother and twelve siblings on a cotton farm. In 1901 her mother separated from her father and stayed in texas. Bessie worked on a cotton farm and saved up enough to go to Langston University in Oklahoma. However she had to drop out after the first semester due to lack of money. In 1915, Bessie moved to chicago to live with her brother. She went to a beauty school and became a manicurist at a barber shop.
Coleman’s brothers served the military during the first world war. Back from the war her brother teased her how she couldn’t fly like french women. This inspired Bessie to take up flying. Coleman was accepted at the Caudron Brothers’ School of Aviation in Le Crotoy, France. She received her pilot’s license in 1921. In 1922, she became the first African American woman to perform a public flight. She was famous for doing the “eight” in the sky.
People were fascinated by her performances and she gained popularity across the U.S and Europe. She toured around the country giving flight lessons. Bess performed in flight shows and she encouraged African American women to learn how to fly. Bessie was invited to perform flying tricks. She refused to perform anywhere that discriminated against African American women.
In April 1926, Bessie took a test flight with a mechanic named William Wills. However due to a stuck wrench in the engine, the aircraft failed in midair. They lost control of the aircraft and crashed. Unfortunately, Bessie Coleman passed away in the accident. Her high flight may have been cut short by accident, but her life continues to inspire us at PTTI.
“I refused to take no for an answer.”
At PTTI, we are aware of the struggles in the lives of African American women. They face constant mental fatigue, discrimination, and inequality. Education and job opportunities come scarcely for black people. We understand your vision, Queen Bess- to encourage women and African Americans to reach their dreams. At PTTI, we have been assisting young women of color in making an empowered life. PTTI is helping them make careers in several trade skills. We provide a range of trade skill programs specific to the black women of the Philadelphia community.
In addition, PTTI has counselors and guides helping youth through life’s ups and downs. Bessie Coleman believed in the empowerment of African American women. We care for African American women’s needs- both physical and mental. The most basic are breakfast, lunch and food to take home. PTTI provides learning material, financial aid, mental assistance like mentoring, counseling to students. The counselors get students ready for a job by providing job placement after graduation. PTTI also provides social services if necessary to students.
Despite her tragic fate, Coleman’s legacy of flight still lives in the hearts of generations of African-American women and men. Coleman’s lasting legacy of women empowerment is our vision at PTTI.