Bessie Coleman Collection
740 East 56th Place
Chicago, Illinois 60637
Extent: 1.5 Linear Feet
Finding Aid: None
Access to this collection is restricted; please contact the holding institution for details.
Bessie Coleman, the first African American female pilot to obtain a license. Coleman learned French at a Berlitz school in the Chicago loop, withdrew the savings she had accumulated from her work as a manicurist and the manager of a chili parlor, and with the additional financial support of Abbott and another African American entrepreneur, she set off for Paris from New York on November 20, 1920. It took Coleman seven months to learn how to fly. The only non-Caucasian student in her class, she was taught in a 27-foot biplane that was known to fail frequently, sometimes in the air. In June 1921, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale awarded her an international pilot's license. Coleman took her tragic last flight on April 30, 1926, in Jacksonville, Florida. Together with a young Texan mechanic called William Wills, Coleman was preparing for an air show that was to have taken place the following day. At 3,500 feet with Wills at the controls, an unsecured wrench somehow got caught in the control gears and the plane unexpectedly plummeted toward earth. Coleman, who wasn't wearing a seat-belt, fell to her death.
Scope and Content Note:
Collection includes original pilots license of Bessie Coleman issued in 1924 by the International Federation of Aeronautics. A stamp book from the United States Postal Service commemorating the Bessie Coleman stamp in 1995. A plaque given to DuSable Museum for celebrating and preserving the life and work of Bessie Coleman among other materials.