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Bessie Coleman and her plane

November is National Aviation History Month. Learn about pioneering aviator Bessie Coleman all month long in a brand-new exhibit.

Coleman was inspired by stories from pilots returning home from World War I to become a pilot herself. However, flight schools in the United States would not admit women or African Americans. She traveled to Paris, and in 1921 she became the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license. After advanced training, she performed as a stunt pilot in barnstorming exhibitions during the 1920s.

“Bessie Coleman and Her Daughters” tells the story of Coleman and other African American women in aviation and aerospace. The International Women’s Air and Space Museum in Cleveland developed the exhibit, and Greene County Public Library is the first to display it. See it through November 30th in the first floor meeting room at Xenia Community Library.

Want to learn about Bessie Coleman and other pioneering female aviators? Try these books and videos!

Bessie Coleman


Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman

Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman

By Nikki Grimes

Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman was always being told what she could and couldn’t do. In an era when Jim Crow laws and segregation were a way of life, it was not easy to survive. Bessie didn’t let that stop her. Although she was only 11 when the Wright brothers took their historic flight, she vowed to become the first African-American female pilot. Her sturdy faith and determination helped her overcome obstacles of poverty, racism, and gender discrimination.


Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman

Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman

By Louise Borden and Mary Kay Kroeger

Besse Coleman was born in rural Texas in 1892. She loved to learn, but when it was time to pick cotton she had to work in the fields instead of going to school. When Bessie moved to Chicago in her early twenties, she heard many tales of World War I from returned veterans. From then on, she was determined to become a pilot. But she soon found out that no one would teach a woman—especially a woman with dark skin—how to fly. Her only opportunity was to study in France.


Fly, Bessie, Fly

Fly, Bessie, Fly

By Lynn Joseph

More than anything, Bessie Coleman wants to fly. As a small child working in a Waxahachie, Texas, cotton field, she likes to imagine she’s a bird, getting ready to spread her wings and fly away. Then, when Bessie learns about the black fighter pilots of World War I, she gets the idea that maybe she really can fly. But no one in the United States will teach her how to fly a plane because she’s black and a woman. So Bessie goes to France, where she becomes the first black woman in the world to earn a pilot’s license—and where she finally has the chance to soar with the birds.


Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman

By Philip Hart

A look at the life of the first black woman pilot, discussing her childhood, education, and flying career.


Bessie Coleman: Daring Stunt Pilot

Bessie Coleman: Daring Stunt Pilot

By Trina Robbins

A graphic-novel biography telling the story of Bessie Coleman, who became the first African American women to earn a pilot’s license.


Bessie Coleman: Daring to Fly

Bessie Coleman: Daring to Fly

By Sally Walker

Describes the life and accomplishments of Bessie Coleman, who overcame racism and poverty to become the first African American woman pilot.


Other Women Aviators


Women of the Wind: Early Women Aviators

Women of the Wind: Early Women Aviators

By Wanda Langley

Biographical profiles of nine women pilots from the early years of flight, including: Harriet Quimby, the first American woman to receive a pilot’s license; Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman pilot; Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of Charles Lindbergh and record-setting pilot in her own right; and legendary adventurer Amelia Earhart.


Women Aviators: 26 stories of Pioneer Flights, Daring Missions, and Record-Setting Journeys

Women Aviators: 26 stories of Pioneer Flights, Daring Missions, and Record-Setting Journeys

By Karen Bush Gibson

From the very first days of aviation, women were there. Katherine Wright helped her brothers Orville and Wilbur so much that some called her the “Third Wright Brother.” Baroness Raymonde de Laroche of France ignored those who claimed that only men possessed the physical strength or the mental capacity to pilot an airplane, and in 1910 became the first woman awarded a license to fly. A year later, Harriet Quimby was the first woman to earn a pilot’s license in the United States, and she flew across the English Channel in 1912—another first. This book profiles 26 barnstormers like Bessie Coleman and racers like Louise Thaden who sought out and met challenges both in the sky and on the ground, where some still questioned their abilities.


The Huntress: The Adventures, Escapades, and Triumphs of Alicia Patterson: Aviatrix, Sportswoman, Journalist, Publisher

The Huntress: The Adventures, Escapades, and Triumphs of Alicia Patterson: Aviatrix, Sportswoman, Journalist, Publisher

By Alice and Michael Arlen

Alicia Patterson was a maverick publisher, equestrian, aviatrix, and adventurer. This biography follows her exceptional exploits, from her troublemaking days as the middle child of complicated parents to her successes as publisher of the Pulitzer Prize winning Newsday.


The Originals: The Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron of World War II

The Originals: The Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron of World War II

By Sarah Byrn Rickman

A history of the original women air pilots who ferried and tested planes during World War II. The squadron was later incorporated into the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).


Fly Girls

Fly Girls

In this video, the story of aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran and the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) is told by some of the participants and illustrated with archival film and home movies.


Amelia Earhart's Daughters: The Wild and Glorious Story of American Women Aviators from World War II to the Dawn of the Space Age

Amelia Earhart's Daughters: The Wild and Glorious Story of American Women Aviators from World War II to the Dawn of the Space Age

By Leslie Haynsworth and David Toomey

Many women made important contributions to aviation but never achieved the fame of Yeager, Glenn, or Earhart. The authors focus on WWII’s Women’s Airforce Service Pilots and Dr. Randolph Lovelace’s “Women in Space” program.



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