Courtesy of American Airlines
Courtesy of American Airlines

American Airlines recently hosted the ongoing Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars tour, which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Coleman becoming the first Black woman to earn a pilot’s license.

To help honor Coleman’s legacy, American Airlines hosted Gigi Coleman, Bessie’s great-niece, on a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Phoenix. An all-Black female crew – from the pilots and flight attendants to the cargo team members and the aviation maintenance technician – took the reins for the special occasion.

“American is being intentional in its efforts to diversify the flight deck,” airline officials said. “Black women have been notably underrepresented in the aviation industry, especially as pilots, representing less than 1% in the commercial airline industry.”

Through the American Airlines Cadet Academy, the airline said it’s committed to expanding awareness of and increasing accessibility to the pilot career within diverse communities.

Coleman earned a pilot’s license in 1921 and performed the first public flight by a Black woman in 1922. She traveled to France to obtain her license when the U.S. refused her.

Coleman then performed air shows in and around Chicago, according to federal records.

Cpt. Beth Powell and 1st Officer Charlene Shortte led the American Airlines flight to observe the centennial of Coleman’s history-making journey.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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  1. “I was black, I was female, and I wanted to fly. We used to pick cotton in Texas, and I’d look up and think, If we’re going to better ourselves, we’ve got to get above these cotton fields.”

    –Bessie Coleman

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