Google has honored many individuals through their fun and unique Google doodles, and they’ve done it once again. On January 26, Google observed the 125th birthday of Bessie Coleman, America’s first black female pilot, with one such doodle.
In the early 1920s, American pilots first began trailing airplane banners for advertising and stuntmen and women would dangle from the wings of planes in daredevli feats of bravery. But Coleman had her eyes turned towards the sky long before that. Coleman was of Native American descent and a Texas native fascinated with flight after hearing her brothers, who were soldiers, tell stories about flying during WWI.
Her brothers also told her that women in France knew a good deal about aviation, and so she decided to go there herself to learn. She relocated to Paris in 1920 to attend flight school. Despite witnessing an aviation accident that killed one of her classmates and being the only black student in her class, Coleman walked away with an international pilot’s license in 1921.
Her legacy lives on today through her living relatives, particularly her great-niece, Gigi Coleman. Gigi, 57, is planning a trip to the International Women’s Air and Space Museum (IWASM) at Burke Lakefront Airport on February 10 to give a talk about her great-aunt. Though Gigi never knew her renowned relative, she plans to recount as many stories as she can of “Queen Bess,” as Bessie Coleman came to be known.
After leaving France with an international pilot’s license, Coleman made her living in air shows, barn storming, and performing a variety of other high-flying stunts. However, her success was short-lived. In 1923, Coleman broke a leg and three ribs when her plane suddenly stalled and crash landed in Los Angeles. Not three years later, Coleman took a new plane out for a test fly, only to have it malfunction mid-flight. She was thrown from the plane and died upon impact with the ground.
Now, Gigi carries on her relative’s legacy through a program called “Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars.” The program is designed to educate minority youths who are interested in aviation.
Coleman said in an interview with Cleveland.com that some 260 students have participated in the program so far.
“Some of these students have never been to an airport,” she said. The goal of the “Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars” program is to help young adults and children realize that anything is possible if they put their minds to it. “I want to challenge minds, young and old, and encourage everybody to follow their dreams, and don’t take no for an answer,” Coleman said.