BESSIE COLEMAN Biography - Famous Sports men and women


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Name: Bessie Coleman                                                                     
Born: 26 January 1892                                                                     
Died: 30 April 1926                                                                       
Elizabeth 'Bessie' Coleman (January 26, 1892 – April 30, 1926), popularly known         
as "Queen Bess," was the first African American woman to become an airplane               
pilot, and the first American woman to hold an international pilot license.               
Born in Atlanta, Texas, Coleman was the tenth of thirteen children. Her father,           
George Coleman, was of part Cherokee ancestry. Her parents were sharecroppers             
yet her early childhood was a happy one, spent playing in the front yard or on           
the porch. Sunday mornings and afternoons were spent at church. As the other             
children began to age and find work in the fields, Coleman assumed                       
responsibilities around the house. She looked after her sisters, helped her               
mother, Susan Coleman, work in her garden, and performed many of the everyday             
chores of running the house.                                                             
Coleman began school at the age of six and had to walk four miles each day to             
her all-black, one-room school. Despite sometimes lacking such materials as               
chalk and pencils Bessie was an excellent student. She loved to read and                 
established herself as an outstanding math student. Bessie completed all eight           
grades of her one-room school. Every year Coleman’s routine of school, chores,         
and church was interrupted by the cotton harvest. Each man, woman, and child was         
needed to pick the cotton, so the Coleman family worked together in the fields           
during the harvest.                                                                       
In 1901, Bessie Coleman’s life took a dramatic turn. George Coleman left his           
family. He had become fed up with the racial barriers that existed in Texas. He           
returned to Oklahoma, or Indian Territory as it was then called, to find better           
opportunities, but Susan and the children did not go with him.                           
At the age of twelve Bessie was accepted into the Missionary Baptist Church.             
When she turned eighteen Coleman took all of her savings and enrolled in the             
Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University (now called Langston                 
University) in Langston, Oklahoma. Bessie completed only one term before she ran         
out of money and was forced to return home. Coleman knew there was no future for         
her in her home town, so she went to live with two of her brothers in Chicago             
while she looked for work.                                                               
On April 30, 1926, Coleman, now age 34, had recently purchased a plane in Dallas         
and it had just been flown to Jacksonville, Florida in preparation for an                 
airshow. Her friends and family did not consider the aircraft safe and implored           
her not to fly it. Her mechanic and publicity agent, William Wills, was flying           
the plane with Coleman in the other seat. Coleman did not put on her seatbelt             
because she was planning a parachute jump for the next day and wanted to look             
over the cockpit to examine the terrain. About ten minutes into the flight the           
plane did not pull out of a planned nosedive; instead it accelerated into a               
tailspin. Bessie Coleman was thrown from the plane at 500 feet and died                   
instantly when she hit the ground. William Wills was unable to gain control of           
the plane and it plummeted to the ground. Wills died upon impact and the plane           
burst into flames. Although the wreckage of the plane was badly burned, it was           
later discovered that a wrench used to service the engine had slid into the               
gearbox and jammed it, causing the plane to spin out of control. Experts noted           
at the time that gears in more modern planes had a protective covering—an               
accident like this need not have happened.