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Bessie Coleman

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Bessie Coleman
Elizabeth Bessie Coleman is a renowned personality who had a successful career as a pilot. She is credited with being the first African-American and African-American woman to be a pilot in the US aviation industry. The achievement has made her a role model to most individuals especially women to date even after her death. Bessie Coleman was a dedicated woman from her tender age, hardworking and determined to bring change in her family and the society at large (Hart & Cosgrove, 2005). She vowed to do everything within her power to transform her family’s living standards by rescuing them from the yolk of poverty. With this objective, she remained steadfast and pursued every opportunity that came her way with a deserving effort and diligence.
The selflessness was evident when she was working as a manicurist at the White Sox Barber Shop. The quality of a passionate and successful person manifested in her at this stage as attested by her workmates. They affirmed that the concentration with which she was delivering services was encouraging and enticing to customers and the employer. It is at the barbershop where she started hearing stories about pilots who were returning home from various destinations including the World War 1 (Hart & Cosgrove, 2005). She heard stories and details about the good feeling that were flying in the airspace brings and the lucrative nature of the career. The stories ignited a strong conviction in her of pursuing the career and becoming one of the great pilots in history.

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However, her dream was threatened by the fact that she had no requisite qualifications to join or train as a pilot. The threat was apparent since her education was below standards since she left school at a lower level. Despite this hurdle, she never looked back.
She inquired about the necessary qualifications that could allow her to pursue the career. Upon getting the information, she enrolled for French classes at the Berlitz School in Chicago (Hart & Cosgrove, 2005). After graduating, she traveled to France to secure a pilot’s license in the year 1920. The license enabled her to learn how to fly type 82 biplanes with a steering system of a baseball bat in front of the pilot in Nieuport. Her journey of being an exemplary pilot started through the systematic initiatives she undertook and self-belief. This paper gives comprehensive information about Elizabeth Bessie Coleman, who was the first African-American and African-American woman to become a pilot. It covers her life, professional career, achievements, personality traits and the tragic death details.
Coleman life
Bessie Coleman, who was a well-spoken, articulate and intelligent woman, was born in the year 1892 in Atlanta, Texas US. She was the 10th born in a family of thirteen children who faced diverse challenges (Walker & Porter, 2003). Her father and mother were called George Coleman and Susan Coleman respectively. The father was only a day laborer whose salary could not sustain the family. The situation exposed them to serious economic challenges that that led to her dropping out school due to lack of fees, inadequate food, and other essential basic needs. The family’s financial predicaments or extreme poverty levels could be affirmed by the one-roomed cabin with a dirt floor where they lived.
After two years, the family moved to Texas where Bessie Coleman lived until she attained 23 years. She started her education in Texas attending a school in Waxahachie that was reasonably far from her home. She used to walk 4 miles daily with the determination to achieve the best in school and transform her life and that of the family. Despite the challenges she was facing, she managed to complete grade eight education levels as provided under the education system (Walker & Porter, 2003). She later moved to Oklahoma to find better opportunities to raise resources that could help in sustaining the family. The initiative shows how industrious and caring she was from her tender age. It also depicts that anyone can achieve best results irrespective of status and social background. What matters is determination and meticulous work as where there is a will, there is always a way.
Professional career
Bessie Coleman had a lucrative and attractive career at her older age when she became a fully recognized pilot. The career elevated her status and made her one of the greatest achievers of all time. Her achievement holds relevance to date as she remains a good example and a role model to many young people especially the disadvantaged ones. Her historical background and progress inspire hope in most individuals globally. According to Hart & Cosgrove (2005), Bessie’s greatest achievement in her entire career was her growth to become the first African American flying planes to different destinations. It did not end there as she also broke the record for being the first African-American woman to become a pilot. This was not an ordinary journey; it involved devotion, perseverance, dedication, and focus.
Bessie became a professional aviator with an unmatched capability that saw her get admired by the whites. The ability made her career more exciting as she was scheduled to fly some of the big planes from the World War 1 venue. Among the planes that she flew during her career include but not limited to Curtiss JN-4, Jenny biplanes and army surplus aircraft. Similarly, her distinctiveness in discharging her duties earned her recognition and first-time appearance I an American airshow in the year 1922. In the event, she was honored as one of the black veteran achievers during World War 1 regime. Apart from the success acquired in the aviation industry, Bessie Coleman worked in a barber shop as a manicurist, executed other odd jobs and became a church servant at one time. In all the activities, she successfully delivered to the best of her ability and most people valued her noble character and working ethics. For example, her stint at the barbershop revolutionized operations at the shop as many customer visits were recorded thereby resulting in high returns.
Regarding her education, she did not attain good education due to financial challenges and poverty but she managed to finish her eight grades. She later pursued French and aviation course that later earned her a place as a pilot in the aviation industry where she flew several planes. Her level of intelligence and understanding was exemplary by all standards making her gain acceptance in the industry among whites.
Following difficulties and challenges that Bessie Coleman faced from her tender age, she undertook to provide a solution by building an aviation school. The school was to enable those with high ambitions of attaining higher education especially on careers that lead people to become pilots to access education and realize their dreams (Walker & Porter, 2003). The move was attributable to the high number of careers that were getting shuttered due to lack of adequate resources to join good schools for academic empowerment. Unfortunately, the polished lady’s dream could not come to pass by the time of her demise. The construction and operationalization of the school were not realized as envisioned, but the intent inspired a generation of African-American women and men.
In recognition of her achievements, many awards, public utilities, and events have been named after the successful pilot. The notable one is the public library located in Chicago to honor her achievement. Roads at O’Hare international airport located in Chicago and Oakland International Airport were also named after Bessie Coleman. In the year 2006, she was honored in the National Aviation Hall of Fame that remains a prestigious recognition (Walker & Porter, 2003). The honor was replicated in 2012 where an installation of a bronze plaque fitted with Coleman’s likeness was executed. Likewise, various schools such as former Cedar Hill school in Texas and Waxahachie school in Texas that were renamed in honor of Bessie Coleman.
The barriers she broke
Indeed, Bessie Coleman’s success did not come easy based on the nature of hostility in the environment she was growing up. She persevered and suffered greatly because of the inequalities that African Americans were treated to during the period. Immense discrimination of diverse nature compromised the success of many people including the African slaves. In particular, African Americans were not allowed to access certain services such as quality education, health care, acquire white collar jobs and manage corporations (Hart & Cosgrove, 2005). They were barred from attending good schools to receive education and decent hospitals where whites were receiving treatment. The philosophy of the day was that Africans were to offer farm work assistance. They were used as slaves with no decision-making authority. The aim was to oppress them socially, economically and politically because any form of empowerment would propel them to greater levels of operation hence shun slavery. The inequalities made many African Americans live in abject poverty. They could hardly finance their education, acquire better shelter and receive quality treatment. Their lives deteriorated immensely, as a result, and many did not receive a quality education while others died out of hunger and chronic illnesses.
Gender and racial discrimination were also common in the nation at the time of Coleman. Outrightly, Africans did not qualify to lead in any capacity. The problem was worse with women who were not only expected to lead but to participate in decision-making. The facts present a clear picture of the suffering and discrimination barriers that Bessie Coleman had to break to assume her position (Robbins & Steacy, 2007). The effort employed is enticing given that she managed to break the record by being the first African-American and African-American woman to join the aviation industry that was dominated by whites.
She first broke the barriers to progress by attaining basic education up to grade eight and nurturing her leadership capability. She accepted her position in the tiny and unequipped school, but she never lost sight of what she wanted. Her motivation and mission was that she had transformed the lifestyle of her family using the available opportunities (Robbins & Steacy, 2007). She did this with distinction as she passed her grade eight education where she enhanced her intelligence level. The knowledge acquired propelled her into working in the barbershop where she got the idea of being a pilot.
Through her determination, she found an avenue of joining the aviation school that includes learning of French. The move opened doors for her growth and success in the aviation industry given that the French language qualification is what earned her the aviation license in France. Later, she was admitted in the aviation industry and allocated a plane to fly. She again broke the barriers by not fearing to work in the male-dominated field being that she was the only woman. Her confidence was exemplary in equal measure thereby enabling her to earn respect among the white pilots. She was able to fly powerful planes courtesy of her high intelligence level.
Tragic accident (death)
As noted by Robbins & Steacy (2007), Bessie Coleman met her tragic death before accomplishing some of the projects she started. She died on April 30th, 1926 when she was on a trial flight in her plane with Wills, who was piloting. She sat on the other side to have a clear view or survey the area where she was to fly and execute a parachute jump the next day. The impact experienced when the plane dived affected her greatly given that she did not tighten the seat belt that enhances safety. The reason for not tightening the seat belt was to enable her to lean out of the plane to identify the best sites worth considering the following day. The plane flipped over at an altitude of 1000 feet throwing her out to the ground where she met her death.
The death was termed tragic due to its nature and the caliber of the person who died. Many people valued Bessie, and they believed that she could help in eradicating some of the stereotypes that have existed for long relating to the inability of women and African Americans in general (Robbins & Steacy, 2007). Due to the love that many people had for her, her memorial funeral service was conducted three times with one being at the burial site known as Chicago’s Lincoln Cemetery. To date, she is continually remembered for her contribution in the aviation industry through honors and heroic recognition.
Indeed, Bessie Colman’s success career wise and social advancement is worth emulation by the individuals in the present generation. Her exemplary performance is attributable to meticulous work, determination, passion, strong drive for achievement and resilience that is necessary for quality performance in the current competitive environment. If Bessie Coleman managed to become the first African American pilot in the world’s history, then no one should cite excuses to excellent performance. Everyone has a chance to contribute significantly in the transformation of the world by breaking the existing barriers and doing the unexpected. What is needed is the goodwill, determination, resilience and consistency as evident in the case of Bessie Coleman, who is highly honored.
Any sensible person should draw several lessons from Bessie’s story from the preamble stages to the point of death. The lessons should inspire hope and create awareness that success is earned through hard work and nothing less. It is not handed in a silver platter as some individuals think. It depends on how you view the prevailing challenges and how you can transform them into serious opportunities. Success demands individuals to do something extra and ignoring stereotypes or any form of profiling either by color, race or gender. They are only meant to cause confusion from doing what is necessary for transforming the society through inventions and execution of critical tasks. Therefore, Bessie’s history gives a rich background of how the delivery of satisfactory and quality services pays even after death.
Hart, P. S., & Cosgrove, M. (2005). Bessie Coleman. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Co.
Robbins, T., & Steacy, K. (2007). Bessie Coleman: Daring Stunt Pilot. Mankato, Minn: Capstone Press.
Walker, S. M., & Porter, J. L. (2003). Bessie Coleman: Daring to Fly. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books.

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