Separate and Unequal Image

Bessie Coleman

Short Caption: 

Coleman broke through the headwinds of racial prejudice as a barnstorming pilot at air shows in the 1920s.


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

Photo Number: 
SI 88-7993
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