Today's lesson, Racism. If you see something written here that you’ve said or done, use it as an opportunity. Take it as a wake up call and make the decision to grow, change and be conscious of your own privilege. Remember, I am not a speaker for the entirety of a people.
The second Black aviator to forge a breakthrough was Bessie Coleman in the 1920s. “It was unusual enough for a Negro to fly a plane, but for a Negro women to do such a thing, it came near being a miracle” - Enoch P. Waters, city editor, Chicago Defender. It may have been a near miracle that Bessie Coleman became the first African American to receive a civilian pilot’s license, but a strong willed determination and unquestioned drive lead the Texas native to pursue an endeavor which was just in its infant stage and nearly, all White.
Coleman was born in Atlanta, Texas on January 26, 1892, the 12th of thirteen children. Within several months, Bessie, her parents. Susan and George Coleman, and other siblings moved to Waxahachie near Dallas. At the age of seven her father, who was three- fourths Choctaw Indian, one-fourth Black, moved back to Indian territory leaving Bessie’s mother to raise four daughters and a son. To support the family, Mrs. Coleman picked cotton and took in laundry. While the children assisted Mrs. Coleman in her work, she also encouraged them to learn as much as they possibly could. It was against this backdrop that Bessie became the storyteller of the family, reading books loaned from a traveling library to the family in the evenings; her unquestionable drive for knowledge had begun.
This drive would lead her to finish high school and fuel a ambition to attend college. Bessie managed only one semester at then Langston Industrial College (now Langston University) in 1910 before a lack of money forced her to drop out of school. She returned to Waxahachie, but would move to Chicago in 1915 where she took a course in manicuring and started working at the White Sox Barber Shop on State Street. Later Coleman would mange a chili restaurant on 35th street to help finance her trip to France to learn the art of flying. Her decision to become a pilot was influenced in part by a teasing discourse her brother John had directed at her, claiming that French women already flew airplanes and that Bessie and others of her race and sex would never take to the skies.