Health, Education, Science, Aviation, and Athletics

Bessie Coleman

32-cent Bessie Coleman stamp
The Bessie Coleman stamp was issued on April 27, 1995.

Bessie Coleman (1896-1926) began her career as a manicurist in Chicago. Thrilled by stories of World War I pilots, she dreamed of learning to fly. At the time, American flight schools would not accept her because she was African American and a woman, so Bessie looked abroad to France to gain her license. In 1921, she became the first African American woman in the world to earn a pilot’s license. “Queen Bess” returned to the U.S. and performed as a stunt pilot in air shows. She refused to enter shows that denied admission to African Americans. Bessie’s dreams of establishing a flight school for African Americans were lost when she died in a plane accident, but her legacy lives on as inspiration for those struggling against adversity.