Bessie Coleman, Barriers, and Seatbelts

Bessie Coleman, born 125 years ago today to sharecroppers in Atlanta, Texas, was dissatisfied. She saw her life played out in front of her in the fields of East Texas and resolved to change it.

So Bessie moved to Chicago where she saved every penny for a flight to France. She’d heard that in France, they’d accept an African-American female student in pilot training and immediately enrolled. In 1922, and only seven months later, Bessie graduated with a pilot’s license. She was the first and would go on to inspire many more.

In 1926, during an abrupt mid-air maneuver, a wrench fell into the gearbox. The aircraft jolted and Bessie fell from the plane. She’d not been wearing a seatbelt with the idea that she needed access to her parachute.

Today in the Air Force, tool accountability and seatbelts are foundational.

And so is breaking barriers.

Thanks to Bessie Coleman and others like her who said, “I can’t do it, huh? Watch me!”


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