Bessie Coleman, aviatrix. Photo Credit: © New York Public Library Digital Collections.

United States – Bessie Coleman, Pilot License

Bessie Coleman was the first African American woman, and also the first Native American, to hold a pilot license. She earned her pilot license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in France on June 15, 1921, and was the first Black person to earn an international pilot’s license.

Born to a family of sharecroppers in Texas, Coleman went into the cotton fields at a young age while also studying in a small segregated school. She went on to attend one term of college at Langston University. She developed an early interest in flying, but African Americans, Native Americans, and women had no flight training opportunities in the United States, so she saved up money and obtained sponsorships to go to France for flight school.



  • Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. “Bessie Coleman, aviatrix.New York Public Library Digital Collections.