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EAA Celebrates Centennial of First Black Woman Earning Pilot’s License

June 7, 2021 – EAA is hosting Gigi Coleman, great niece of legendary aviator Bessie Coleman, at the EAA Aviation Museum on June 15 to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Bessie earning her pilot’s license on June 15, 1921.

Gigi Coleman will speak about the life of Bessie Coleman, such as her first inspiration to becoming a pilot, moving to France, getting her license, and finally becoming an air show pilot. There will be two presentations held at the museum’s Founders’ Wing at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Bessie Coleman’s achievement was groundbreaking as she was the first African-American woman and first Native American to earn a pilot’s license. Gigi Coleman, sporting early aviation gear, will highlight the boundaries her aunt helped break.

“The ability to have Gigi Coleman come speak on behalf of her great aunt Bessie Coleman is especially important because it encourages individuals to go out and achieve their dreams,” said Ron Connolly, Director of the EAA Aviation Museum. “Bessie’s achievements of being the first African-American woman and first Native American to hold a pilot license shows that people are capable of many great things if they set their mind to it.”

Bessie Coleman’s passion to become a pilot is because of her brother John, who teased her that French women were allowed to learn how to fly airplanes and Bessie could not. She eventually moved to France where she was able to earn her license and become an air show pilot.

She was known for performing difficult maneuvers, earning her the nicknames “Brave Bessie” and “Queen Bess.” Her goal was to encourage and inspire women and African Americans to go out and reach their dreams.

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