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Bessie Coleman
Date Issued: 1995-04-27
Postage Value: 32 cents

Commemorative issue
Black Heritage
Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman, the first African American female aviator, is the subject of a single stamp in the Black Heritage series. Coleman was born in a one-room cabin and raised for part of her life in a single-parent family. Through her reading, she discovered the world of aviation. Her efforts to learn how to fly were thwarted when American aviation schools would not admit her because of her race and gender. On the advice of Robert S. Abbott, founder and editor of the Chicago Defender, Coleman resolved to pursue her dream in Europe, studying French at night and working days as a manicurist to earn the money for flying lessons.

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 plans to open an aviation school. She never opened the school, but she traveled throughout the country, lecturing on aviation and encouraging African Americans and women to learn how to fly. During practice sessions for an upcoming flying exhibition, Coleman was killed on April 30, 1926, in a crash caused by jammed controls in a plane piloted by her mechanic.

Topics: African American (234)  Portrait (895)  Woman (572)  

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