As a pilot, Bessie Coleman quickly established a benchmark for her race and gender in the 1920s. She toured the country as a barnstormer, performing aerobatics at air shows.
Her flying career, however, proved to be short-lived. She died in a plane crash in 1926, her untimely death coming just a year before Charles Lindbergh made his historic transatlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis.
For the African American community, Bessie Coleman became an enduring symbol of how a talented and highly motivated person could seek out a career in aviation.
National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution