Mr. Speaker, in January 26, 1892, a young woman was born in Atlanta, Texas. Her name was Bessie Coleman and she continues to inspire generations of African American women around the United States and in the great state of Texas.
As the tenth of thirteen children whose father had left to Oklahoma seeking refuge from racial barriers, she was forced to work at the cotton harvest every year to help support her family. However, in 1915, she moved to Chicago seeking to become something greater. She had no idea how this step would change American history forever.
She began working as a manicurist in Chicago, but the stories of pilots from the First World War intrigued her. This, along with friendly taunts from her brother, would motivate her to learn how to fly.
However, schools in America denied her entrance, so she set out to attend aviation school in France. She attended the Caudon Brother’s School of Aviation, where she completed a 10 month program in only 7 months. She also received her international aviation pilot’s license from the renowned Federation Aeronautique Internationale, making her the first African American and Native American woman to earn a pilot’s license. But this is not the end of her amazing story.
Coleman returned to the United States and specialized in stunt flying and parachuting. She earned her living by barnstorming and performing aerial tricks. She became the first African American woman to perform a public flight in America. Although she changed her mind about starting a flying school for African Americans, she still encouraged other African Americans to learn how to fly.
Most importantly, she stood up for an entire community of people when she refused to perform in places that would not admit members of her race. Unfortunately, her life would end shortly at only 34 years old after a test flight gone wrong caused her to fall hundreds of feet to her death in April of 1926.
Mr. Speaker, Ms. Coleman’s strength, endurance, and ability to break down barriers are truly inspiring. I am incredibly proud that such an amazing legacy started in Texas. It is an honor to come from a state full of people known for breaking down barriers and overcoming obstacles against all odds.
And that’s just the way it is.