Chicago Defender, October 1, 1921
Following a ten months’ course of instruction in aviation at a French school, Miss Bessie Coleman, 28, a popular Chicago girl, arrived in the United States Sunday aboard the Manchuria of the American line. She has with her credentials from foreign aviators, certifying that she is a finished aviatrix.
In November, 1920, Miss Coleman went to Du Crotey Somme, France, where the Condran School of Aviation is located. Here she completed a ten months’ course in expert flying, involving such features as tail-spins, banking and looping the loop. With the exception of Miss Coleman and a Chinese woman, all aviatrix are white. A special Nieuport scout plane is being built for her by French airplane builders. It will be sent here shortly.
Miss Coleman is expected in Chicago Monday, and during her stay here she will give aero exhibitions in the hope of inspiring others with the desire to fly.
The 1921 pilot license issued to Bessie Coleman from France.
Chicago Defender, October 8, 1921
Miss Bessie Coleman, 4533 Indiana Avenue, the only feminine aviatrix of the Race in the world, arrived in Chicago Saturday direct from France, where she just completed a ten months’ course in aviating.
Mis Coleman was seen by a Defender reporter at her home. When asked why she took the game of flying, she said:
- Well, because I knew we had no aviators, neither men or women, and I knew the Race needed to be represented along this most important line, so I thought it is my duty to risk my life to learn aviating and encourage flying among men and women of the Race who are so far behind the white men in this special one. I made up my mind to try; I tried and was successful.
Not Satisfied Yet
But I shall never be satisfied until we have men of the Race who can fly. Do you know you have never lived until you have flown? Of course, it takes one with courage, nerve and ambition to fly. And, too, age and health are to be given great consideration. But I am thankful to know we have men who are physically fit; now what is needed is men who are not afraid to dare death.
Miss Colemaqn paused a moment and with a charming smile she continued:
- I first went to Paris and decided on the school. But the first to which I applied would not take women because two women had lost their lives at the game, so I went to another in the Somme Crotey, the city where Joan of Arc was held prisoner by the English. There I finished my course, took examination and passed; then afterwards I still kept flying to perfect myself. Later, I left the school in Somme and attended another in Paris where I had lessons under an ‘ace’ who had brought down thirty-one German planes during the world war. Here, I decided on my plane, which is a Nieuport de Chasse, 130 horse-power, and with which I shall give exhibition flights in America and other countries.
Japs Buy From France
When asked how did the darker races of China and Japan compare with the races of other countries in aviating, Miss Coleman replied:
- Japan is greatly interested in the air. She is buying planes from England and France. China also is doing her but in this direction, but both countries are far behind the others.
I saw France’s fine Goliath airplanes, the largest built in the House of Faurman, equipped with two Sampson motors, which carry fourteen people. They are not built as passenger carrying planes; they are fitted out as fighting planes. Only people who are flyers are permitted to see them. Flying is as popular in Europe as automobiling is in America. ‘Kings own their private planes just as our President owns his car.
Better to Fly High.
When asked how she felt while flying so high, Miss Coleman replied that she felt more safe in an aeroplane than an automobile.
- I have flown as high as 5,000 feet. Of course, 1,000 feet is high enough for traveling if you are sure of your motor, but the higher you fly the better chance you have in case of an accident. In school I saw a pupil killed instantly; it was aa terrible shock to my nerves, but never lost them. I kept on going. When you first enter the aviation school there you must sign away your life; that is, you must sign a contract agreeing to assume all responsibility and risk. They not responsible for your life, however, I signed the contract and determination to complete the course impelled me to walk nine miles a day, every day, to school for ten months.
We must have aviators if we are to keep pace with the times.
Any one desiring information concerning aviation or aviation schools may see Miss Coleman.
Hartford Courant, October 20, 1921
Miss Bessie Coleman, the only colored aviatrix in the world, writes from her home, No. 4533 Indiana avenue, Chicago, to the colored Elks’ lodge in this city that she will be proud to fly in Hartford under the auspices of the lodge. She says she is sorry she cannot begin her exhibition flights soon, but her airplane, which is being made in Europe, will not be finished until the first of the year. She expected to have it this fall, and, when she returned from France a month ago, thought the machine would be here this month.
Miss Coleman thanks the Hartford lodge for its invitation and incloses a picture of herself taken at the aviation school she attended in France for eight months. Miss Coleman writes that one of her earliest flights will be in this city.
Chicago Defender, February 25, 1922
New York, Feb. 24.—Miss Bessie Coleman of Chicago, who is the only aviatrix of the Race, sailed Tuesday, Feb. 24, on the French liner Paris for Paris, where she will purchase airplanes for her school of aviation.
When seen by a Defender reporter at the home of her aunt, Miss Richardsen, 26 West 136th street, Sunday, Miss Coleman stated that she will be gone for more than three months. She told of her plans when she returns to America, which will include exhibition flights from New York to the aviation fields at Mineola, L. I. After these flights she will give instruction at the New York branch of her aviation school to all who want to fly.
Upon the conclusion of the interview, Miss Coleman and Alderman George W. Harris, who will assist her in looking after her interests when she returns, and a Defender reporter went to the Metropolitan Baptist church, where the pastor, the Rev. W. W. Brown, had invited her to meet the congregation. She was introduced by the alderman, who told of her success as an aviator of airplanes and of her entering the aviation school at Crotey, France, after being rejected at several other French schools. Miss Coleman finished with high honors and then was admitted to membership in the famous Aero Club of France in Paris.
Miss Coleman received a great ovation. In a few words she told of her proposed trip to France, where a new Nieuport plane which she had built there especially for instruction purposes, was awaiting her. She also related how the Bertha-Butkett Co. (white) had already sought her services to advertising their goods.
Chicago Whip, July 15. 1922
Girl Flyer Given German License
NEW YORK, July 15.—Bessie Coleman, of Chicago, and the only aviatrix of her race in the world, has received first pilots’ license to fly a machine anywhere in Germany. Miss Coleman also holds a brevet license in France and has made several flights in London and Holland. It is reported that she will arrive in Chicago soon and open a pilots’ school. She refused an offer to teach in Moscow.
Daily Herald, August 25, 1922
Women Succeed as Aviators
The United States has had many women aviators. Katherine Stinson was the fist of her sex to fly in this country, being a contemporary of Lincoln Beachey and many other of the early early aviators who learned at the Wright field, near Dayton. Now Chicago has produced our first negro girl aviator in Bessie Coleman, who is abroad at present receiving additional training in France, Holland and England, where she has given many demonstrations of skill.
New York Age, August 26, 1922
COLORED AVIATRIX TO FLY FOR 369TH REG’T.
Miss Bessie Coleman has returned from Europe where she had special training in aviation under the most efficient instructors. Her work has included flying huge German seaplanes and she has succeeded in flying the largest plane ever flown by any woman of any race—a 220 horsepower Benz motor, at Berlin Germany. She brings credentials from the Duetsche Luft Reederei (German: Aero Club) of Berlin.
She plans to open an aviation school in this country and is awaiting, from Amsterdam Holland, a dozen Fokker planes. One of her Fokkers has already been delivered and she will make her first American exhibition fight at Curtis Flying Field, Garden City, Long Island. Sunday, August 27, at 3:30 p. m. under auspices of the 369th New York Infantry.
There will be eight other sensational fights by America’s leading Aces, and 15th Infants band concerts during flying. Tickets on sale at this office.
Direction to field: Take Long Island Railroad from Pennsylvania Station to Garden City or Mineola, sightseeing busses to field. Front Brooklyn, take train at Flathust Avenue.
New York Times, August 26, 1922
Bessie Coleman to Give Exhibition for Fifteenth Regiment.
Bessie Coleman, negro woman flyer, will give an exhibition this afternoon at Curtiss Field, near Mineola, L. I., for the Fifteenth Regiment, which is expected to turn out in full strength. Miss Coleman returned from Europe a fortnight ago and, according to German newspapers. In June she flew, without a lesson, the largest plane ever piloted by a woman. She took a 400 horse-power machine over Berlin. She visited the Fokker plant in the Netherlands and successfully flew manufactured by the the various typesDutch aircraft engineer. Another feat ascribed to her was piloting a Dornier seaplane, which requires unusual aeronautical skill.
Miss Coleman, who is 24 years old, is a native of Texas. Just before the war closed she went to France with a Red Cross unit, which was brigaded with a French flying unit. She persuaded the French officers to instruct her and now possesses a pilot’s license issued by the Fédération Aeronautique Internationale.
New York Daily News, September 5, 1922
First Negro Woman Flier In Plane at Garden City
The first Negro woman to pilot an airplane in this country, Miss Bessie Coleman, twenty-four, of Chicago, made three short flights at Curtis Field, Garden City, L. I., yesterday. She handled a Curtis JN biplane with considerable skill before a large crowd. She received her training in France.
A NEWCOMER.–Holiday crowds at Curtiss Field, Garden City, L. I., yesterday saw Bessie Coleman, first colored aviatrix, give daring flying exhibition. Capt. E. C. MeVey presenting bouquet to Miss Coleman at finish of flight.
Chicago Defender, September 9, 1922
New York, Sept. 8.-Miss Bessie Colman, the only aviatrix of our Race and one of the few licensed female flyers in the world, made her first flight before an American audience Sunday afternoon at Curtiss field. Garden City, Long Island. About 2,000 spectators saw the ascension.
The affair was arranged in honor of the 15th infantry, under the auspices of the Chicago Defender, and was originally scheduled for Aug. 21, but the severe rain on that day prevented its being carried out. However. those who saw the affair Sunday agreed the take-off, the maneuvering in the air and landing of Miss Coleman were perfect. Officials at Curtiss field are in accord in the belief that Miss Coleman’s ability as an | aviatrix is unexcelled. During her flight, which occurred first at 1:15 p.m. she flew a Curtiss plane, loaned by the Curtiss Airplane company.
The girl’s first flight was with a pilot. He was landed and then Miss Coleman went up twice alone, guiding the plane perfectly to the delight of the hundreds of enthusiasts of both races, The 15th infantry band graced the occasion with several of their jazzy selections and just prior to Miss Coleman’s ascention played the “Star Spangled Banner.” With bared heads the people stood until the last strains of our national anthem died away, when the big Curtiss plane rose into the air, marking the first public flight of a Race roman in this country. After flying for several minutes and ascending io a height of 2,000 feet, Miss Coleman did some gliding and made a perfect landing.
After Miss Coleman’s performance Dr. Herbert Julian, who was connected with the Canadian aviation corps during the war, thrilled the spectators with a parachute drop from a Curtiss plane from over 2.000 feet in the air und landed without injury.
Chicago Whip, September 30, 1922
The world’s first dark-skinned aviatrix, Miss Bessie Coleman, a Chicago girl, is back in the Windy City to fly for the “home folks.”
Miss Coleman, who studied aviation in Europe, bears the distinction of being one of the only women either white or black, to receive a pilot’s license from the French Aero Club. She arrived in New York recently, and after filling several engagements in the East, has come to Chicago to give exhibition flights.
At Checkerboard Aerodrome
Misg Coleman’s first flight will occur Sunday afternoon, October 8, at the Checkerboard Aerodrome, Maywood. She will present what is known among aviators as a complete aviation program, which has been outlined as follows:
- French Start, Bertha-Costa Club, Curtis-McMullen Turn, Rickenbacker Straighten-Up, Richthofen German Glide, Ralph C. Diggins Landing, Figure 8, and parachute jump.
Jack Cope, a veteran balloonist, will also perform several rope ladder, stunts.
Following her flight, Miss Coleman will also take passengers for a spin in the air. The first event will begin at 3:00 p. m.
The automobile route to the Checkerboard Flying Field is west in Jackson Boulevard to Des Plaines Avenue, and south to Roosevelt Road. The field can also be reached by the Garfield branch of the Metropolitan “L,” getting off at Forest Park Station.
An admission fee of $1.00 for adults and 25¢ for children will be charged.
Chicago Whip, October 7, 1922
Miss Coleman who is rated throughout Europe as a most skillful and daring aviatrix, is being besieged by promoters & moving picture magnates to give exhibition flights throughout the country. Before accepting any offers she will fly for Chicagoans.
Preparatory to her flight at Checkerboard Field Sunday afternoon, October 15, Miss Bessie Coleman, the only dark-skinned aviatrix on earth. is giving a series of lectures in Chicago churches, explaining the art of flying, and recounting some of her adventures in the air.
According to European critics, Miss Coleman is one of the world’s greatest fliers. Her daredevil flying has amazed continental Europe, and she has been applauded by multitudes in Paris, Berlin, Munich, and Amsterdam. She holds an international license. Miss Coleman has piloted the largest plane ever flown by a woman, a 220 horsepower Benz, and has flown for Pathé News in Berlin.
The flight is to take place at Checkerboard Airdome, which may be reached by the Garfield Park Metropolitan “L,” or by auto west on Jackson Boulevard to Desplaines Avenue, south to Roosevelt Road, and west three blocks to the airdome.
It has been erroneously announced that the flight is to take place Sunday, October 8. The correct date is Sunday, October 15.
An admission fee of $1.00 for adults and 25¢ for children will be charged. Tickets are on sale at various churches, the Colonial Barber Shop, Duncan’s Barber Shop, and the Dreamland Cafe.
Following her flight Miss Coleman will take passengers for spins in the air.
Snapped in Berlin, Germany
After a flight over the ex-Kaiser’s palace, with a “Pathé” camera-man.
The views which were taken were widely distributed through ‘Pathé News Reel’
Chicago Defender, October 21, 1922
By Blaine Poindexter.A crowd of about 2,000 people gathered at Checkerboard airdrome Sunday afternoon and witnessed the airplane stunts of Miss Bessie Coleman, the only Race aviatrix in the world. Spectators were not disappointed, for they witnessed some of the most marvelous flyong feats that have ever been performed by the most daring aviators.
Miss Coleman carried out every detail of the exhibition as described in her program. Four flights were scheduled and in these the aviatrix proved with her skill that she had mastered the art of flying.
Flight No. 1 consisted of the French (Frank) Nungesser stunt. This in itself is beyond the ability of the average aviator to perform and to master. This start requires much skill and practice. In this flight the Spanish Bertha Costa climb was made and the American Curtis McMullen turn, the Eddie Rickenbacker straighten up, the Richthofen-German glide and the Ralph C. Diggins landing were featured. All of these feats were performed in about 10 minutes, the time used in making this flight.
But the hearts of the spectators stood still when in flight No. 2 the daring girl made the figure 8 in honor of the Eighth Illinois infantry. It looked as if she had lost control of her great plane and that it was turning and twisting, pilotless, back to earth. But thousands of hearts sighed with great relief when the machine was seen to right itself and soar straightway through the air.
At the conclusion of her exhibition many in the gathered throng were taken through the air. Only one passenger could be taken at a time, but five other planes were flying under the supervision of Miss Coleman, thereby giving those who wished an opportunity to be among the clouds for the first time. This feature continued until dark.
Miss Coleman’s exhibition was in every way a success. She is constantly in demand and receives offers from different parts of the country. Already she has five engagements booked in five different cities. Yet with all her fame she is still the same unassuming, friendly Bessie Coleman.
Chicago Whip, October 21, 1922
“Announcer” Jones stated, while introducing Miss Bessie Coleman, that “she was bornded in Texis.” Someone inquired if he meant “bonded” Of course, that man was a bootlegger.
When the Queen of the Air ascended the first time, she carried with her a man who was to act as her mechanic. “Announcer” Jones informed the assembled crowd that “the other man in the plane was a passenger and Miss Coleman was driving the plane.”
When the daredevil who performed on a swinging rope ladder suspended from the wing of an aeroplane some hundreds of feet in the air, one of Louis Anderson’s “bretheren” exclaimed: “I thought I had nerve when I go home drunk and face my wife, but that guy up there has me beat. But I het he is not married.”
A lady who appeared on the field dressed in “knickers,” Russian boots, her hair bobbed, and, in her hand, a swagger stick, passed a cocky little officer who also had a swagger stick. One of the bystanders said: “Look at those two cripples over there in uniform who have lost part of their canes. Everybody cannot be up on the fashions, can they?
A big Southern-looking gent who had paid his $5 and was just about to board the plane suddenly stopped and began a rigid inspection of the machine. “What are you doing? Are you an expert?” queried Miss Coleman. “No: I’m looking for an exert (exit),” replied the prospective passenger.
The announcer was absolutely reluctant to use the word aviatrix. The old boy simply did not care to become entangled with this “big” word, as was evidenced in the fact that when he introduced the flying ace, he said: “Ladies and gentlemen: I take great pleasure in introducing the world’s greatest girl who flies in the atmosphere.”
Chicago Whip, December 30, 1922
BESSIE HEADS TROUPE OF STUNT ARTISTS.
Bessie Coleman, the aviatrix, will head a flying circus of colored performers, including wing walkers, parachute jumpers, and plane stunt artists. The outfit is being booked out of Chicago as a free attraction for fairs and similar engagements.
Bessie Coleman and her ($400) military surplus Curtiss JN-4D “Jenny” in 1922. The plane was allegedly purchased for her by an advertising agent for the Coast Tire and Rubber Company.
Bessie Coleman’s fame broadened and Hollywood beckoned as she was offered a role in a feature-length film titled “Shadow and Sunshine,” to be financed by the African American Seminole Film Producing Company. She was disenchanted, however, when she was to be cast in a demeaning role as an ignorant country girl who moves to the big city, so she broke her contract and left Hollywood. She was soon thereafter approached by an advertising executive from the Coast Tire and Rubber Company who wanted lessons in flying. She reached an agreement with him to drop advertising leaflets for him in return for him buying her a plane. He bought her a used JN-4 but on its first flight on February 4, 1923, it crashed.1
California Eagle, February 10, 1923
Just after starting from Santa Monica for Palomar Park, where she was scheduled to give exhibition. flights on Sunday afternoon, February 4th, Miss Coleman’s plane fell a distance of some hundreds of feet to the ground, and she was seriously injured. She was carried at once to St. Catherine’s Hospital, Santa Monica, where it was found she had sustained a broken leg, three fractured ribs, bruises and painful cuts about the eyes and chin. Miss Coleman’s plane was completely wrecked, and it has not been learned for a certainty just what caused the accident. The machine however, was one purchased by the aviatrix since her recent arrival in California; her own plane, which she used in Europe, is in Chicago.
Just how “game” the little aviatrix was to the last, was evinced by the fact that while en route to the hospital, she dispatched a verbal message to her fleld-manager, Mrs. Bass, to the effect that she would “be on later”—that is, as soon as she could be patched up—a plan which was, needless to say, wisely frustrated by the hospital authorities.
The crowd that had assembled at Palomar Park to see Miss Coleman was keenly disappointed by her non appearance, the real reason for which, unfortunately, was not learned until late Sunday night, too late to controvert the wild rumors that were flying from tongue to tongue.
And it is with shame for our own people that we must say that the general tenor of these rumors and expressions of opinion was such as to indicate a most deplorable derth of chivalry among our men and an utter lack of womenly feeling and sympathy among those of Miss Coleman’s own sex. In short, Miss Coleman and her managers were loudly accused (and even abused) for promoting a “bunco game,” and the later were assailed by clamorous, and even insulting, demands for a refund of admission money then and there. In other words, a brave little Race girl was condemned without a hearing while she lay on a bed of pain, unable to even send a message that would have cleared the situation although such message would doubtless have been received with sneers and incredulity. In this connection, we might add, by way of appropriately capping the climax, that certain people, on Sunday night, when announcement of the accident was made at various places, declared this poor girl’s cruel injuries to be a punishment from on high for the sin for attempting to fly on Sunday—a declaration of sentiment not only un-Christian and inhuman, but positively childish!
California Eagle, February 10, 1923
“TELL THEM I’M GOING TO FLY”
Bessie Coleman’s Message to the General Public.
Aviatrix Bessie, now at St. Catherin’s Hospital in Santa Monica: sends this message to all friends and well-wishers, and-all who loyally turned out to witness the exhibition flight last Sunday that ended so tragically for the star-performer:
- TELL THEM ALL, THAT AS SOON AS I CAÑ WALK, I’M GOING TO FLY! AND MY FAITH IN AVIATION AND THE USEFULNESS IT WILL SERVE IN FULFILLING THE DESTINY OF MY PEOPLE ISN’T SHAKEN AT ALL. And I mean to carry out every plan I made for establishing a school here, where our boys may acquire the. mastery of the air.
Chicago Defender, September 22, 1923
MISS BESSIE COLEMAN
Chicagoans will be given a last opportunity Sunday afternoon to see Bessie Coleman. one of the few women flyers and the only aviatrix of her Race. when she makes her flight at Chicago Air Park at 63d St. and 48th Ave. Miss Coleman will make the first exhibition flight promptly at 2 o’clock, after which she will take up passengers at $5 each.
To get to the park, take a 63d St. car to 48th Ave., or by automobile, Garfield Blvd., to Western Ave., Western Ave. to 63d St. and West on 63d to the field.
The aviatrix has just returned from Columbus, O.. where she flew before a crowd of 10,000 enthusiasts. She leaves immediately following her flight Sunday for an exhibition tour of the South.
Chicago Defender, February 2, 1924
Motion Picture News
Bessie Coleman, the only Colored girl aviatrix in the world and the only woman in the world holding an international pilot license, enabling her to fly in any country; the only woman who has handles a 22-horse power German Benz plane and made a flight over the palace of the former kaiser in Berlin, Germany, with a Pathé-News cameraman, has signed a contract to appear in theaters with her educational films showing her flights in America and Europe, under the exclusive management of D. Ireland Thomas.2
Chicago Defender, March 10, 1923
By Ralph Eliot
Santa Monica, Callf., March 9.— “Queen Bess” is coming back. Little Bessle Coleman hasn’t entertained for tho proverbial space in three shakes of a kitten’s tall the idea of giving up flying, just because she struck an air pocket not long ago, fell 300 broke brake her leg and suffered other injuries.
From her hospital bed hero she cries: “You tell the world I’m coming back.”
Strangely enough, she regards tho accident that befell her as a victory. The fact that she is still living with only a leg broken proves, she says, that flying in the air is no more dangerous than riding an automobile on the surface. That. In her opinion, should persuade more of her people to take to the art of flying.
Plans for School
She not only clings to the idea of flying herself, but she racks her feverish brain with plans for the school of aviation she had set about to establish before her misfortune.
“But must I,” she asks with an impatient gesture, “escape from death to open a school for ‘whites only?’ Or will the Negro race give it a little coloring? So far co-operation has come from the whites. Before I was hurt I went to San Diego to buy two machines. They were bought for white men who were to be my students. Both these men live in Oakland and had seen me fly at Rockwell flold. They heard the comments of old war pilots on my work. Then I landed I was given a check on the Bank of Italy of Oakland with which to purchase two machines. One of these was for the president of the Coast Tire & Rubber company. The other for the advertising director.
“Seven boys of our Race have come to see me here and expressed a desire to learn the art of flying. Those whose people have enough money are kept from taking it up because the brains of their people are ‘old.’ Other bright boys have no one to help them.”
Miss Coleman declared that she has had experiences befor out here almost as thrilling as the one in which she was injured. One was when she flew from San Diego to Long Beach. She was all alone in her machine. Five other planes. however, made the trip which was begun at 4:30 in the afternoon. The six of them were compelled to fly at an altitude of 5,000 feet over mountain and ocean. Darkness overtook them. They were all lost from their landing place for awhile. Searchlights played the skies for them at Long Beach, one machine being located at a time. Bessie flew a short distance farther on, sought a place through the darkness and landed safe in an open field. The crowd which was awaiting the fliers below thought she had been killed.
She is full of enthusiasm for the art. She believes that it should receive group backing from the Race. She has nothing but words of praise for her treatment from other fliers of other races. But. she says she is lonesome, and fearful that her people will not grasp the opportunity to get in on something that will be of value to then later.
“The only Negro,” says she, “that gets into Rockwell field is a young gent of some 78 years or more, with most of his teeth missing. He picks the paper up off the ground as it is torn from the new machines. Isn’t that a shame?”
Chicago Defender, May 24, 1924
Nashville, Tenn.—Milton Starr, president and general manager of the T.O.B.A., issued orders to all offices of the T.O.B.A., instructing them not to book Bessie Coleman. This action was taken upon the complaint of D. Ireland Thomas, H. C. Washington and prominent citizens of Columbus, Ohio, and others alleging that Miss Coleman did not carry out contracts with them. She was appearing in person with two reels of films showing her flights in Europe and America, under contract with D. Ireland Thomas, who claims that she jumped her contract with him, after he had framed her act and spent a large amount of money on special advertising for her. Mr. Starr made investigations and found a large number of complaints against Miss Coleman from reliable showmen and noted citizens of Ohio, Tennessee and other states.
Chicago Defender, May 24, 1924
New York, May 23.-The opportunity for our youths to become aviators at a small cost was stimulated Thursday when it was announced by Major Spencer of the Atlantic Aircraft corporation that the famous Dutch Inventor, Anthodny. H. G. Fokker. who taught our only aviatrix, Miss Bessie Coleman, how to fly, was to open a factory here to build planes of his design.
Upon Miss Coleman’s return from Europe two years ago she stated that after considerable persuasion on her part Mr. Fokker had promised that he would come to America to build planes and open an aviation school for men and women regardless of race, creed or color, and that the cost of learning would be as cheap as possible.
Miss Coleman was a student at the Fokker Aviation school and received her first pilot’s license in Germany. She was the first woman of any race to successfully pilot the big Fokker bombing plane, and carries several commendable letters from noted European aviators. Prior to returning to America Miss Coleman purchased a Fokker plane. These planes are said to be the best built and it has been announced that Mr. Fokker has a lease.with-option to buy on the factory and airport of the former Witteman: Aircraft corporation at Hasbrouck Heights, N..J.
Chicago Defender, January 30, 1926
Bessie Coleman was presented as a special attraction at the Dunbar theater, Savannah. Ca. the first half of the week at Jan. 16 and drew areas crowds at each performance. There were doctors. lawyers. teachers, preachers accompanied by some of their members, also members of the national Republican committee women who visited the theater to see Miss Coleman in her great work and made it their business to meet the young lady personally to congratulate her for her accomplishments. Miss Coleman received several valuable presents from some of Savannah’s leading bankers, business men and ladies. Arthur A. Meneriet Miss Coleman’s traveling manager. /
The Tampa Daily Times, April 30, 1926
Jacksonville, April 30.—William D. Wills, 24, Dallas, Texas, and Bessie Coleman, said to have been the only negro aviatrix in the world, lost their lives in an airplane mishap west of the city this morning.
The woman fell out of the plane when it got out of control at 2,000 feet and overturned, and Wills was killed when the plane crashed on the ground. The machine struck a tree just before landing.
Wills’ body was cremated when a spectator lighted a match near the wreck of the plane. Gasoline fumes ignited and before the body could be extricated, the machine was a raring mass of flames.
Wills and the negro woman went into Paxton field this morning, accompanied by John T. Betsch of the Jacksonville Negro Welfare league. Betsch was handling publicity for an exhibition the negress was to have given at the fairgrounds here tomorrow.
The plane took off with Wills in front and the negress in the cockpit. It flew to an altitude of about 3,500 feet and circled around. Then persons watching, saw it take a nose dive. It dropped about 1,500 feet and then overturned.
Police were preparing to remove the body of wills from the plane when Betsch struck a match to light a cigaret. Gasoline fumes caught fire and two explosions of the gas tanks folowed.
Police detained Betsch.
The Coleman woman came here Tuesday to prepare for the exhibition. She lived in Chicago. The negro woman was not strapped in the plane when it took off, authorities said.
The Daily Worker, May 2, 1926
Negro Aviatrix Killed.
Jacksonville, Fla., April 30-William D. Wills, 24-year old white man, Dallas, Texas, and Bessie Coleman, 26, of Chicago, said to be the only Negro aviatrix in the world, were killed this morning in an exhibition airplane flight west of the city when their plane took a 3,500 foot nose dive to the ground.
Chicago Defender, May 8, 1926
By E. B. JOURDAIN, JR.
Jacksonville. Fla. May T.- “Brave Bessie” Coleman. the, daring girl flyer whose stunts have thrilled crowds on aviation fields from Frisco to Long Island, took off on her last flight from Paxon field at 7:30 Friday morning, with death riding as her pilot. In Jacksonville’s first air tragedy, and in one of the most sensational of all the disasters that have marred the progress of flying in this country. the only aviatrix of her race was killed with her white mechanic when the jamming of control gears sent her plane hurtling through 2,600 feet of space.
Miss Coleman, who was not strapped in, was shot from the machine while it was still 2,000 feet in the air. Her body crushed and mangled, with even the leggings burst open by the impact of the fall, was picked up in a farmyard adJoining Paxon field. Pieces of flesh dotted the nearby ground.
Turns End Over End
The white mechanic, William D. Willis, 24, of Dallas, Texas, was strapped in the plane and crashed to the ground with it. End over end in sickening revolutions the big machine tumbled until it was checked by the top boughs of the pine it smashed its way, landing as a heap of wreckage at a point on Paxon field just beyond the section of Edgewood Ave and Lake City road.
Before police, summoned by frantic hurry calls, could yank out the crumpled body a careless spectator tossed down a lighted cigaret and the oil-soaked mass of wreckage became Wills’ funeral pyre. A few venturesome policemen tugged for a moment the body from the flames, but the debris burned like tinder and the crowd was forced away.
Crowd Hunts Souvenirs
With the cooling of the wreckage they returned, people of all races, to tear at the metal remnants of the plane and carry them away as souvenirs.
The Jacksonville Negro Welfare league, under whose auspices Miss Coleman had come here to fly Saturday in an annual 1st of May field day, took charge of the body. Sunday men, women and children of all hues crowded the Bethel Baptist church to pay parting tribute to the daring girl flyer. Millionaires and sons of high and low degree, rubbed elbows in the little church to pause for a second before the open casket that held the shattered body of “Brave Bess.”
Cancel Field Day.
All plans for the field day cancelled themselves with the very first news of the tragedy. All Saturday evening, even till after midnight, throngs filed through the undertaking parlors of Lawton L. Pratt. Newspapers that the day before had printed her pictures with the caption, “Gambles With Death,” devoted columns to the tributes of wealthy public men who wept when she lost her bet.
Sunday night the body was sent by the Welfare league to Orland, where she was wintering for her health. Here devoted admirers packed the Mt. Zion Baptist church for funeral service at 11 Monday morning. A song tenderly sung, I’ve Done My Work, a choir in Lead, Kindly Light; a sermon by Rev. H. K. Hill; dozens of resolutions, and the body was ushered out of the church for the journey to her mother’s home in Chicago. Orland residents made up the $300 expense.
Last picture taken of the ill-fated plane in which Miss Bessie Coleman, aviatrix, and William Wills, her mechanic, lost their lives at Jacksonville, Fla., Friday. Wills (white), in circle, who was flying the plane at the time of the disaster, was burned beyond recognition when the plane went up in flames and smoke after crashing to earth on the Jacksonville fair grounds. Miss Coleman, one of the first women in the world licensed to operate a plane, and the only aviatrix of her Race, fell from the machine when it turned upside down at an altitude of 2,000 feet and landed two blocks from where Wills and the plane fell. Her body was horribly crushed and mangled. Photo of burning plane rushed to the Defender by representative at the scene.
Buried in Chicago
At 7:35 Wednesday morning the flower-banked casket reached Chicago, where it remained in state in the Kersey undertaking parlors until 10 a.m. Friday, when final funeral services were held in the crowded Pilgrim Baptist church.
It was a mere practice flight that ended in Bessie Coleman being hurled to her horrible death, and her mechanic being cremated. Invited by the Welfare league to do stunt flying and parachute jumping at their field day she had sent to Dallas, Texas, for her 90-horsepower plane. Wills, who was employed by the Southern Aircraft company at Dallas, and claimed to be a veteran of 57 flights, reached Jacksonville with the machine Wednesday, after two forced landings from engine trouble.
Miss Coleman had come here from Orlando Tuesday, Wednesday she visited Manhattan beach to arrange an exhibition. Thursday she had talked at all the schools, Florida’s most prominent public men had fallen in idolizing her bravery, and Edwin W. Beeman, sole heir of the millionaire gum manufacturer, had put up the $500 to bring her plane here from Texas.
Kneels to Pray
Early Friday morning Miss Coleman was driven do the flying field by A. T. Besch, a Howard graduate interested in aeronautics, whom she had promised to lake up after she tried out the plane.
The girl knelt a brief moment in prayer by the plane. Then with Wills in the driver seat they took off. “They’d been up 12 minutes and had reached 3.000 feet.” says Besch, the only eye-witness on Paxon field, when something went wrong. They had done a nose dive, but instead of righting, the plane plunged right on down. Expert aviators who examined the wreckage said that a wrench had slipped between the control gears and jammed them while they were set downward. They called the plane an old-fashiyoned army type. “In a modern plane with protected coats the accident couldn’t have happened,” the said.
Bessie Coleman was born in Atlanta, Texas. 26 years ago, the 12th in a family of 12 children. Her father’s death when she was 7 drove her to cotton fields to eke out the family income. Going to Oklahoma in live with a sister, she studied at the state college and later learned beauty culture in Chicago. She went into business, made good and brought her mother and sisters north. The world war stirred her interest in aviation. She studied ten months in France, and then in Germany and Holland. She carried credentials from the French Eato club and one from the Duetsche Luft Reederei signed by Captain Keller. the famous German navigation ace now directing the the flying service af the German navigation. The Pathé News praised her handling of the big, intricate 220-horsepower Benz war planes, while foreigners hailed her as the only American aviator Who ever crossed the kaisers palace at Potsdam. The renowned airplane inventor, Fokker, banqueted her and foreign royalty entertained her. She leaves a mother in Chicago and several brothers and sisters,
Chicago Tribune, May 8, 1980
Chicago Tribune, November 12, 1986
Contest Cites First Black Woman Pilot
Marion Coleman, president of the Bessie Coleman Foundation, announced an essay contest to honor Bessie Coleman. the first black woman in the United States to learn how to fly.
The contest is open to Chicago-area students in grades seven through 10 who must write a two-10 three-page essay on “Why the United States Post Office should honor Bessie Coleman by putting her picture on a possage stamp.”
Deadline for entries is Dec. 31.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, April 9, 1995
‘Black Heritage’ Series Salutes Woman Aviator
Bessie Coleman could not become a pilot in the United States because she was black and a woman.
American aviation schools simply denied her admission.
As a result, the first African American woman pilot – who will appear on the 1995 stamp in the “Black Heri-tage” series—had to earn her wings and pilot’s license in Europe.
The Coleman commemorative is the 18th “Black Heritage” stamp since the series began in 1978. It will be issued on April 27 in Chicago.
Bob Harris, a Postal Service vice president, and Marion Coleman, Bessie Coleman’s niece, will take part in the dedication in Southwest Airlines hangar at Midway Airport.
“Throughout my postal career, I saw the Black Heritage stamps and thought my Aunt Bessie should be honored.” said Marion Coleman, a retired postal employee.
“And I’m so glad she is being honored in this year’s stamp program,” she added. “Aunt Bessie’s dream was to learn aviation and then teach others. Most African Americans at the time didn’t even consider learning how to fly. Even though she faced obstacles, she didn’t let anything stop her. You people today can learn from her determination. Her example teaches them they can accomplish whatever they dream of doing in life—no matter what the challenges are.”
Bessie Coleman was born in a one-room cabin and raised for part of her life in a single-parent family. Through reading she discovered the world of aviation. But American flight schools would not admit her.
Robert S. Abbot, founder and editor of the Chicago Defender, urged Coleman to pursue her dream in Europe. She resolved to do so.
Coleman studied French at night and worked days as a manicurist to earn money. On June 15, 1921, she earned an international pilot’s license issued in Paris by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, granting her the right to fly anywhere in the world.
She returned to the United States later that year with the ambition of opening an aviation school.
Known as “Brave Bessie” and “Queen Bess,” Coleman enjoyed national popularity at air shows for her acrobatics and high-flying stunts. She was particularly renowned for her pinpoint landings and “figure 8s.”
She never opened a school, but wherever she traveled she lectured on aviation and encouraged African Ameri cans and women to learn how to fly.
On April 30, 1926, during practice sessions for an upcoming exhibition, Coleman was killed in a crash caused by the jammed controls aboard a plane piloted by her mechanic.
Today, a library and street leading to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport are named in her honor.
Since 1940, when educator Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) became the first black person to appear on a U.S. stamp, more than 70 definitives and commemoratives have featured or honored African Americans.
Collectors desiring first-day cancellations should buy the Coleman stamps at a post office and place them on seif-addressed envelopes. These should be mailed in a larger envelope to: “Customer-Affixed Stamps, Bessie Coleman Stamp,” Postmaster, Chicago, III. 60607-9991. Requests should be postmarked by May 26.
Chicago Tribune, March 1, 1990
The (city) council also unanimously approved the changing the name of old Mannheim Road on O’Hare Airport property to Bessie Coleman Drive. Coleman, a Chicagoan, was the first black pilot and opened the first flying school for blacks in this country.
1The exact details of Coleman’s contract with Coast Tire are not known.
1Damon Ireland Thomas (1875-1955) was a columnist with the Chicago Defender, theater owner, and philanthropist in the United States. He wrote many articles on African American cinema.