Unity through Diversity

Mixis Living Trailblazers

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ELIZABETH BESSIE COLEMAN, was born January 26, 1892. Her father was one-quarter African-American and three-quarters Choctaw and Cherokee Indian. Her mother was African-American. Being gifted in math, her mother, at eight years old, had her work as the family bookkeeper. She learned to read and write by reciting the Bible and went to school up to grade eight. After high school, she enrolled in teachers college. It was here she read about the Wright Brothers and Harriet Quimby, a woman pilot.

In 1920, sometime after leaving school, her brother, a World War I veteran, came to the shop where she worked and told her how French women could fly airplanes, inspiring her to become a pilot. This would not be an easy task, since it was next to impossible for a black woman to take flying lessons. She was encouraged to attend aviation school in France, where racism was nonexistent. But she had to learn French first. She did, at a local language school. She became, not only the first African-American woman to earn international aviation license status, but also procured first African American woman status in the world to earn a pilot’s license.