95 Years Since Aviator Bessie Coleman Fell into History

Updated: May 7

Series Presented by Dr. Beverly Kee in the Florida Star and Georgia Star newspapers.

This series is take from the e-Book, "Bessie Coleman Flying the Blues: The Life and Times of Bessie Coleman" by your very own Opio Sokoni. Children wanting to go into aviation or girls looking for a true inspiration for whatever path they choose will enjoy reading this series from beginning to end.


Series From e-Book: Bessie Coleman Flying the Blues Introduction: The times in which Bessie Coleman lived captures the beginning of the modern period in the United States. This era was full of hope, ingenuity, artistry and pride. We also see the harsh realities of racist terrorism and efforts to prevent African Americans from reaching their full potential. Segregationist policies spawned numerous offspring of which [opportunities and] desires were both tested and dashed. From this study, we can better see the results of determination in the face of tyranny. This work could have been what some may consider a boring look at public administration during the times of the Jim Crow era. It is true that we can see in this piece the results of civil servants and the advance management and function of U.S. policies in government. We also use this work to analyze and explore government decision making along the lines of racial and gender lines. In addition, we are indeed concerned with the organization of government policies after the Civil War and Reconstruction. The programs created during this time permitted local and federal officials (both elected and non-elected) to formally conduct themselves in ways that we would view as astonishing today. This scholarly work, however, is prevented from traveling down the road of boredom with the use of a technique created by a Howard Law School professor and student called Poli-Tainment. This strategy uses an entertaining and inspiring approach to explain complex political thoughts and policies. Here, we use the life of pioneering aviatrix Bessie Coleman to look at gender and racial policies of the post reconstruction era. With this, we are able to discern, in an interesting way, the actions and activities pertinent to public administration mentioned above. We also observe the fact that history has no gaps or discontinuation. What happened yesterday directly affects us today. How is it that most of the Black U.S. Senators to Congress come from Chicago? How is it that the first known African-American president of the United States also had Illinois as a base? What role did Chicago have with creating media millionaires such as Ebony magazine’s Johnson family, Oprah Winfrey and Black Enterprise founder Earl Graves? And, how is it that the most influential, intelligent Hip Hop artist today (Kanye West) makes his home in Chicago? They are all beneficiaries of the media (Chicago Defender), political (Lincoln) and artistic (Blues) lineage that were created by the great black migration of Blacks from the south to Chicago. This all came about as a result of the ending of slavery, the terror filled Jim Crow era and the New Negro movements heavily pushed by Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey. Bessie lived in this world and played a major role in it. Her life inspired the pilots who, after her tragic death in Jacksonville, Florida, would produce other black male and female pilots. They created flight schools that taught the Tuskegee Airmen of WWII, ended segregation in the U.S. military and inspired the ending of segregation in the United States as a whole. Brave Bessie was the first person that made the attempt to integrate audiences. She was sometimes successful at her demands at her air shows – refusing to perform if she did not get her way. This inspired Josephine Baker, Ray Charles and a list of others that followed. This can all be drawn from the life of this woman – Elizabeth Bessie Coleman.


[This series on the life and times of pioneering aviator Bessie Coleman will continue next issue in the Florida Star and Georgia Star newspapers covering the e-Book entitled, "Bessie Coleman Flying the Blues" by Opio Sokoni]



Series Continued: Part 2 The life and times of the first Black woman to fly an airplane covering the e-Book entitled, "Bessie Coleman Flying the Blues." Presented By Dr. Beverly Kee Contributor The Florida Star/ The Georgia Star As we continue our journey into the life of the great "Bessie Coleman", the first African American and Native American female pilot, we have to ask ourselves did we do her an injustice by not bringing her full story back to the forefront of American Aviation History. I am reminded how being from a big family can sometimes set the tone for one's career path. She was from a family of thirteen, just as I am from a family of sixteen. God showered our family with several musical geniuses and it was passed on to each sibling on down to the baby boy, Pastor John P. Kee. In her case, none of her siblings ever mentioned aviation or a suggested career path.

Bessie Coleman Flying the Blues: The Life and Times of Pioneering Aviatrix Bessie Coleman A Southern Childhood Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman was born January 26, 1892 to George and Susan Coleman in Atlanta, Texas. Some records also have her birth in 1896 as well as 1893 and on date January 20. Many entertainers during that time reported themselves as being younger than they were. Bessie was the tenth child of her parents 13 children. Her mother, Susan, was from Georgia; as were her parents. Bessie’s father’s dad, George Coleman, was probably a Cherokee or Choctaw from the Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Bessie’s fraternal grandmother was from Missouri. Only nine of Susan Coleman’s children lived but none, as she once said, were crazier than her daughter Bessie. The family moved to the cotton town of Waxahachie a little more than one year later. There, Mr. George Coleman picked cotton and built a three bedroom home on Mustang Creek. Waxahachie is located near Dallas. Dallas was a city of 40,000 in 1892. In the last week of that year, there were eight murders, three fires, two rapes and four robberies. Bessie went to a small segregated school as a child. She read Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the poetry of Paul Lawrence Dunbar who wrote, Be proud, my Race, in mind and soul: Thy name is writ on Glory’s scroll In characters of fire. High amid the clouds of Fame’s bright sky; Thy banner blazoned folds now fly, And, truth shall lift them higher. Segregationist Atmosphere Breaks Up the Family

Bessie Coleman's mother Susan Coleman holding Bessie's silver cup award presented to her by singer Ethel Waters.

Susan Coleman holding her daughter Bessie Coleman's Silver Cup Award presented to her by Ethel Waters in NY. Susan Coleman was 45 when George left the family to go to Indian Territory. George Coleman experienced racism both as a black person and probably worse as a Native. Picking cotton in this small town carried with it degradation and a local government reluctant and/or adverse to providing relief in disputes with Whites. Cotton workers were often short changed or even humiliated. Whatever it was, Bessie’s father left. He may have been aware of the movements that swirled around the area that would soon become Oklahoma. There was one movement by white mid-westerners to take the land away from the Five Civilized Tribes. Those who went to settle the territory before the legal time to do so were called Sooners. There was also a movement to make the territory a black state. This movement was started by Edward P. McCabe who inspired several thousand blacks to move to the area in order to gain the number needed to bring about political power.

He and many black papers reported that he would become governor of the black state; complete with two U.S. Senators. The black Oklahoma movement was in competition with the end of the Reconstruction period where black advancements began to rapidly deteriorate. Jim Crow segregationist laws (mentioned later) were immediately implemented after Oklahoma became a state. An attorney, McCabe mortgaged his home to challenge racial segregation in the courts. His case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. He lost that battle and ultimately moved away – his wife remaining. He died in 1920 in Chicago but was buried in Topeka, Kansas. Several decades later, Topeka was the famous location of the school board that was sued by the Brown family on the grounds of legal segregation. In 1954, Brown v Board of Education in Topeka Kansas was the culmination of cases the Supreme Court used to end all legal segregation. Mr. George Coleman may have been one such black person who moved to the Oklahoma area with the promise of intelligent black leadership and opportunities. He may have also decided that the life of a Native in the territory was preferable. Bessie’s mother refused to go with him. Bessie’s older brothers left as well. Two moved to Chicago and one to Canada. Left in the house after George’s departure were four little girls with the oldest being. During that period of time, only about 15 percent of black households were single parent led. Bessie’s mother insisted that her children strive for excellence. She rented books from a wagon that came around several times a year. These books contained stories of the accomplishments of African Americans. She may have also been exposed to the Chicago Defender. This black owned and operated newspaper was often sent to various areas of the south using train porters who dropped them off in small towns on train routes. Bessie’s mother recognized academic talent in Bessie and encouraged it. Bessie, who excelled at math, was relieved from picking cotton as most children had to do. Schools were often shut down until the picking season was over. Susan relied on Bessie as the family bookkeeper. Bessie graduated from her local school that only went up to the eighth grade. [This series on the life and times of pioneering aviator Bessie Coleman will continue next issue in the Florida Star and Georgia Star newspapers covering the e-Book entitled, "Bessie Coleman Flying the Blues" by Opio Sokoni]



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