Coleman was born in 1892 to sharecroppers in Texas. She studied in a one-room schoolhouse and worked picking cotton while dreaming of doing something with her life that would make an impact. She saved her money to go to university but ran out of funds after one term. She became a beautician and manicurist to earn money after moving to Chicago to live with her brother but remained restless.
When her brother returned from serving in France during World War I, he told Bessie about how French women could fly and her fate was sealed. She saved her money and moved to France in 1919 to become a pilot. When she returned to the United States, she was the first African-American pilot and became a stunt pilot and lecturer traveling the country.
Coleman dreamed of setting up a flight school for African-American pilots, and at every stop in her tour, she broke down stereotypes and challenged segregation. Although her life was cut short in a plane crash in 1926, her pioneering spirit, determination and vision for the future have left a lasting impact on shared American history.
Tickets are $20 for general admission; $15, seniors and students; $10 for museum members. Purchase at www.museumonmain.org; at the Museum on Main, 603 Main St.; or by phoning 462-2766.
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