Bessie Coleman Birthday & Fun Facts

Height, Age, Net Worth, Biography & More

Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason
Jan 31, 2024 By Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason
Originally Published on May 14, 2022
Bessie Coleman was the first African-American woman pilot. Learn more about her birthday, net worth, and other inspiring facts.
All ages
Read time: 5.5 Min

About Bessie Coleman

African-American pilots owe a lot to Bessie Coleman.
Bessie Coleman made history in 1921 as the first American aviator to be a woman and an African-American. Born in an era before commercial flying, she made a living by performing daredevil stunts in aerial shows.
Born into a sharecropping family, Bessie was not content with maintaining the status quo and submitting to racial discrimination. When aviation schools in Chicago refused to let her enroll, she learned French at night and applied to flying schools in France. She earned her license from here and went on to make a career as a stunt flyer.
Bessie Coleman made history as an African-American woman. She spent her childhood in Texas and studied one term at Langston University. As a young adult in Chicago she was inspired to become a pilot. The road to finding a flying school that would accept her wasn't easy and it was sheer determination that pushed her to get an international pilot’s license. Unfortunately, her career as a stunt flyer lasted only five years and was cut short by an untimely accident that led to her death.

Height, Age, & Physical Attributes

How old was Bessie Coleman?

Bessie Coleman was 34 years old when she died in an accident in 1926.

Childhood And Education

Elizabeth Coleman was born in Atlanta on January 26, 1892 to George Coleman and Susan Coleman. She had nine older siblings and would go on to have three more younger siblings. Of the 13 children, only nine survived past their first few years. When she was two years old, the family moved to Waxahachie, Texas. It was here that Elizabeth, or Bessie as she was also known, started school. She completed her elementary education from a segregated, one-room school.
In 1901, George Coleman decided to return to Oklahoma, but Susan Coleman and the rest of the family stayed on in Texas. When Bessie Coleman was 12 years old, she received a scholarship from the Missionary Baptist Church School.
At the age of 18 years, she enrolled herself in the Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University in Langston, Oklahoma. However, she could attend only one term due to a lack of funds. The university is now known as Langston University.
When Bessie turned 23 years old, she moved in with her brothers in Chicago and started attending the Burnham School of Beauty Culture. She later became a manicurist in a barbershop. Riled by her brother’s stories about serving in the military and hearing about French women pilots, Bessie decided to become a pilot herself. Since she was a woman and an African-American, she couldn’t find an aviation school willing to accept her.
Refusing to be defeated, Bessie decided to apply to French schools and started learning the language at night.  Her efforts were encouraged by philanthropists like Jesse Binga and Robert Abbott from whom she also received financial assistance for her tuition. She was finally accepted at the Caudron Brothers' School of Aviation in Le Crotoy and received her international pilot’s license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale on June 15, 1921.

Family, Romance, And Relationships

Who was Bessie Coleman’s partner?

Bessie Coleman was briefly married to Claude Glenn in 1917. She never spoke publicly about the marriage and the couple soon separated. Bessie Coleman did not have any children.

Career And Professional Highlights

Best Known For...

Bessie Coleman is best known for being the first African-American woman pilot. Bessie was also the first black person to have an international pilot's license. She earned her pilot license in 1921 from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Her daredevil demonstrations in air shows earned her the nick names, Brave Bessie and Queen Bess, amongst others.
Bessie Coleman did not win any awards for her work, but she received recognition in other ways. A number of roads, schools, scholarships and public libraries have been named after her. She was inducted to the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2001, to the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2006, and to the International Air & Space Hall of Fame in 2014.
A scaled-down reproduction of Queen Bess, her bi-plane, is displayed in the Atlanta Regional History Museum. The U.S. Postal Service issued a postal stamp in her honor.
Bessie Coleman played an active role in fighting racism and educating people about aviation.

Charity Work

Bessie Coleman was an active voice in the fight against racism and worked towards spreading education.

Other Interesting Bessie Coleman Facts And Trivia

  • Bessie Coleman died in Jacksonville, Florida in an untimely air crash.
  • A mountain on Pluto is named after Bessie.
  • Bessie Coleman returned to the USA with her pilot’s license as a media sensation. She decided to make a living by becoming a barnstorming stunt flier. This was a highly competitive field where fliers performed dangerous tricks while flying in front of paying audiences.
  • Unable to find anyone to give her the advanced lessons required to perform such stunts, Bessie returned to France in 1922. She spent two months studying in France before moving to the Netherlands where she ended up meeting Anthony Fokker. From the Netherlands, she moved to Germany to receive more training from the Fokker Corporation’s chief pilots.
  • For the next five years, Bessie Coleman was a popular name in America’s stunt flying circuits.
  • Bessie made her Airshow debut at the 1922 American Airshow honoring the all-black 369th Infantry Regiment World War I veterans. She was billed as ‘the world's greatest woman flier’. This flight made her the first African-American woman to pilot an aircraft publicly. Six weeks later, she performed in an air show in Chicago to honor the 370th Infantry Regiment veterans. Some of the iconic daredevil moves in her aerial show included loops, figure eights, and near-ground dips.  She soon gained a reputation for her skills and daring nature. In 1923, just two years after her debut, Bessie fractured three ribs and a leg in a plane crash.
  • Along with being a pilot, Coleman dreamed of opening her own flight school. She spoke on many occasions to huge audiences about fighting racism and promoting aviation for women and African-Americans. She refused to participate in any events that African-Americans were not permitted to attend.
  • Bessie usually flew a Curtiss JN-4 Jenny biplane and other army surplus aircrafts. To save money to buy her own aircraft, she opened a beauty shop in Orlando while staying with Rev. Hezakiah Hill and his wife.
  • She was offered a role in a feature film ‘Shadow And Sunshine’. After initially accepting the role, she refused to be part of the project after learning that the first scene required an appearance in tattered clothes.
  • Bessie Coleman died on April 30, 1926. She was test flying a new aircraft with William D. Wills, her publicity agent and mechanic, for an upcoming parachute jump when the aircraft suddenly spun out of control and dove to the ground. Despite sparse coverage in the local media, over 10,000 mourners attended her funeral service in Chicago.

 

Bessie Coleman Birthday & Fun Facts Facts

Birth Name

Elizabeth Coleman

Date of Birth

1892-01-26

Date of Death

1926-04-30

Nationality

American

Place of Birth

Texas

Height

0 cm

Child Star?

No

Occupation

Aviator

Partner

Claude Glenn
We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

See All

Written by Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason

Bachelor of Science specializing in Mass Communication.

Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason picture

Adekunle Olanrewaju JasonBachelor of Science specializing in Mass Communication.

With over 3+ years of professional experience, Olanrewaju is a certified SEO Specialist and Content Writer. He holds a BSc in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos. Throughout his dynamic career, Olanrewaju has successfully taken on various roles with startups and established organizations. He has served as a Technical Writer, Blogger, SEO Specialist, Social Media Manager, and Digital Marketing Manager. Known for his hardworking nature and insightful approach, Olanrewaju is dedicated to continuous learning and improvement.
Read full bio >